West Indies v India, 4th ODI, Antigua July 2, 2017

West Indies stun India in low-scoring thriller


West Indies 189 for 9 (Lewis 35, Kyle Hope 35, Umesh 3-36, Pandya 3-40) beat India 178 (Rahane 60, Dhoni 54, Holder 5-27) by 11 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jason Holder took his maiden five-wicket haul as he led West Indies to victory © AFP

The wine is oxidising fast. Add Antigua 2017 to the list of matches MS Dhoni has failed to finish off since 2014. He scored India's slowest half-century in 16 years as they failed to chase down 190 on a slow pitch against a spirited attack that managed to tide over a costly drop and a tactical blunder in the concluding stages. Jason Holder compensated for bowling Roston Chase in the 44th over with a maiden five-for, but it was Kesrick Williams, playing only his second ODI, who frustrated the hell out of Dhoni, conceding just 13 in four overs after the 40th and taking Dhoni out with the last ball he bowled.

Four years ago, in the West Indies, Dhoni found himself in a similar situation on a similarly slow track, chasing 202, leaving himself 15 to get in the last over with the last man for company. He got it in three hits.

Here, India needed 16 off the last two, but Dhoni couldn't inflict any damage against Williams' mix of slower deliveries and quick length ones. Perhaps it was the bigger boundaries than Queen's park Oval's from four years ago, perhaps he doesn't trust himself that much anymore, but here Dhoni pulled the trigger sooner. He could have taken a single off the last ball of the 49th and left himself 13 to get in Holder's final over, but he blinked first and drilled a length ball straight into the lap of long-on.

Moments after the match, Dhoni was seen sitting dejected in the balcony, a little lost even, when a member of the India squad had to shake him physically to shake his hand. Dhoni knows this is the kind of chase he has built his reputation on. It will be harsh to talk of him when the batting around him failed more miserably, but everybody - Dhoni himself - knows these are Dhoni finishes.

When Dhoni walked in, he brought a sense of calm to a faltering batting. Shikhar Dhawan departed early, not respecting the slowness of the pitch and driving Alzarri Joseph on the up. Joseph's grandmother, operating the manual scoreboard at Sir Viv Richards Stadium, cheered on.

The bigger blows were to follow. West Indies' adherence to their bowling plans has never been more apparent than when they have bowled to Virat Kohli when he is new at the crease. They believe he doesn't like the bowl up at his throat, and 41% of their bowling to Kohli has been in their own half. Different batsmen react differently to plans against them. Kohli hates to watch a plan succeed for a while before overcoming it. He wants to dominate. Out went his trusted weaving and ducking, and in came the hook shots. Holder's third bouncer in the sixth over produced the top edge, and we had a game on now.

Dinesh Karthik, replacing the injured Yuvraj Singh, and playing ahead of Rishabh Pant presumably because he was selected in the squad before Pant, did worse against the bouncer. After taking 13 balls to get off the mark, he top-edged one that was barely chest high.

In came Dhoni to join Ajinkya Rahane, who had again looked comfortable against the new ball and had been dropped on 23. The two began to bat cautiously; the asking rate was not an issue at this point. The old maxim of "India win if they bat 50 overs" still held true even as Rahane and Dhoni laboured through their 54-run partnership.

West Indies were markedly different from two nights ago when they had failed to squeeze India after taking two early wickets. Here there were no easy singles as first Williams and Devendra Bishoo, and then Ashley Nurse, dried up the runs. While Rahane did get the odd boundary, Dhoni said an absolute no to taking any risk.

MS Dhoni's 54 off 114 balls was the slowest ODI fifty for India since 2001 © AFP

By the time Rahane took his last risk, sweeping Bishoo against the turn, the asking rate hovered around 4.55. It was still in Dhoni's control. You still felt Dhoni just needed to bat through. However, Dhoni was not batting like Dhoni does. He struggled to time balls, but more worryingly failed to find gaps. Bishoo and Nurse bowled 68 balls to him for 28 runs, slower than his innings strike rate of 47.36. Dhoni was even forced to play a sweep shot, which is the ultimate last resort for him against spin.

As Kedar Jadhav fell, bat-pad to Nurse with Shai Hope leaping from behind the stumps, the asking rate closed in on a run-a-ball. Hardik Pandya ramped one for four to buy some breathing space, Dhoni began to take risky singles, and in the 40th over, India needed more than six per over. Would it still be an India win if they batted through?

Dhoni definitely thought so. He kept waiting for the mistake from the opposition, a principle he has built the second half of his limited-overs career on. A tenet of captaincy he has handed down to Kohli. The mistakes weren't forthcoming, though, as Williams began to bowl the gun overs perfectly.

Holder is a leader by example, but his being at the forefront had cost West Indies 65 runs in 4.5 overs at the death in the last two matches. Perhaps he wanted to do the prudent thing. Perhaps he wanted to continue with offspin after Nurse's success. Whatever be the reason, after three conservative bowling innings, with 55 required off 42, with that painstakingly increased asking rate at stake, Holder asked Chase to bowl his offspin for the first time in the series. Chase proceeded to gift Dhoni a boundary down the leg side - his first in 103 balls, then bowled a wide and then went for a six to Pandya to bring the equation down to 39 off 36. Surely now India win if they bat through?

Surely not. Holder came back immediately to make amends with a leg-stump yorker to send back Pandya. In came Ravindra Jadeja who has got a bit of a reputation of being headless under pressure in limited-overs cricket. When the singles ought to do it, he went for the big hit, sending a Holder slower ball down long-on's throat, making it 17 off 15. Dhoni should still have it, right?

It seemed so as he took a single next ball, leaving Kuldeep Yadav, batting for the first time in ODIs, two balls to face from Holder. Both were dots. Williams began the 49th with a slower ball. Dot. Then, calmly, still as if in the middle overs of an innings, Dhoni pushed a single. Nothing wrong with it. That's how Dhoni is. Last over it shall be, one on one, me vs you.

Williams, though, squeezed out two dots against Kuldeep before bringing Dhoni back on strike for the last ball. And that's when Dhoni blinked. That's when he did the uncharacteristic thing. After having backed himself for so long, Dhoni didn't back himself to do it all in the last over.

Holder finished the innings with a flourish, making up with his bowling for the direction and purpose they lacked with the bat. When West Indies batted, you wondered if they would choose not to bat at all if there was a provision for the two captains to just negotiate and decide a total India had to chase. They would still have brokered a better deal than the 189 that they got, joint second-lowest total for a side batting first and playing out its allocation of 50 overs since the 2015 World Cup; the lowest belonged to Zimbabwe.

If the lack of direction showed in the 192 dot balls faced by West Indies - at one point, Evin Lewis, a T20I centurion against India, had faced 15 straight dots from Umesh Yadav - they managed only tame dismissals whenever they tried to push the scoring rate. However, there was another factor at play, the slowness of the pitch, which they exploited decisively in the second half of the match.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • divynl6307086 on July 5, 2017, 16:16 GMT

    Woah! An acclamation by Sanjay Manjrekar on twitter! Indeed no one writes match reports like you Sidharth Monga. Kudos to you!

  • Navin on July 5, 2017, 12:38 GMT

    India can't win every game in ODI or T20, these formats give chances to all teams so some day they will lose to even Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. Overall team India is doing well but replacement for aging players like Dhoni and Yuvi should be considered by giving chances to young wicket keeper, middle order batsman, all rounder etc.

  • yahya on July 5, 2017, 10:10 GMT

    Hey every one. i am from Pakistan. i am a huge fan of MSD and VK, but i am extremely disappointed by the way fans are behaving. come on guys, r u guys serious. dropping MSD or VK from ur team. MSD was most successful captain of INDIA holds many records and in his bad phase u guys are abandoning him, Please support him as u guys have supported him in past.

  • jasprit on July 5, 2017, 4:19 GMT

    And 3rd, last but not the least, Virat Kohli's loss of form is getting into very worrisome realms. He is been absolutely horrible in his timing and execution for almost 6 months now. He has scored decently in between in patches, but other than a handful of shots, which believe me, I can count on my fingers and replay in my mind anytime, he has been nothing more than scratchy and unelegant. He needs to take a break, relax, and lighten up his mind for a while. He is a Gem. It would be a loss for Cricket and its fans to loose one of the most elegant batsmen ever if he fades away. Cant Wait To See the Dashing, Bashing, Destructive, Elegant, Beautiful Virat Kohli whipping the ball to cover and mid wicket boundaries with his Wrists. (The Greatest Wrists in the game.). Its my soul food. Cheers!

  • jasprit on July 5, 2017, 4:07 GMT

    And secondly, its unfair for Team India to expect Hardik to bowl 10 overs and then play that pivotal role of finisher/hitter as well. That is too much to ask. It is not possible to do both jobs at the same time, and nobody has ever done it in the history of the game. He is a batsman first, good enough to be No. 6/7, and given all the due responsibilities. And his bowling, 4/5 overs, should be looked at as a bonus. Team India needs to get him some help in his bowling by bringing in another bowling allrounder to support him for the other 5/6 overs (Krunal Pandya). Asking him to bowl 10 overs is the wrong use of his talent by giving him the wrong role, and it might lead to his detriment. He should seen as a batsman and given due responsibilities, so that he can focus on his best talent and bring his best to the Team. Cheers!

  • jasprit on July 5, 2017, 3:57 GMT

    But one or two points that I wanted to bring up that have not been highlighted as much are that it is 'Unfair' for Team India to preach this policy of keep wickets in hand and then expect Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav to explode in the end. It is unfair towards Hardik and Kedar for these top 5 to just keep crawling and take their sweet time to score 40 off 10 and 200 off 40 and then expect Kedar and Hardik to score 100 off last 10 every time. And if they fail, then its lower Order's fault, because the so called 'Platform' was set. Pushing the run rate is a risky business and anybody can get out anytime doing it. But Team India will drop them first, because it was 'their job' to do it. Its unfair.

  • jasprit on July 5, 2017, 3:45 GMT

    A lot has been said about Dhoni, Yuvraj, Ashwi, Jadeja and Rahane. General consensus seems absolutely correct. But I think replacements might be harder to find than seems. Kuldeep, Pant, Chahal, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan are some names that are front runners. Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Shreyas Iyyer, atleast according to me, are not international material. For once, India's bowling stocks seem to be much richer than batting. But one Name in my mind, that Absolutely Definitely belongs in Team India is Krunal Pandya. Is he ever ready, and do Team India ever need him? The guy is bowling absolutely beautifully, and bats with grit, and is definitely suited to that No. 7/8 spot. Two more Names that I think are better suited for international class at the moment are Nitish Rana and Siddharth Kaul. Kaul's death bowling is as good as anybody in India at the moment. But, its probably difficult to break into Team India at the moment with even Mohammad Shami not finding a regular spot.

  • Sammy K on July 5, 2017, 3:38 GMT

    This was classic cricket. WI put up a dismal target, one that India's star studded batting lineup could stroll through in their sleep. Then out of nowhere the Islanders started pulling rabbits out of their majical hats. Once again cricket became the glorious game of uncertainty. It's not a question of Kohli and Co being mortals and not invincible. They proved that already in their last outing against a fire-breathing Amir and Hassan Ali. The WI bowlers just showed what they could do, if the will was there. Lately this killer's instinct had been missing and they had been floundering often. Today they played like the Islanders of old and the outcome was sheer majic. Congrats yo callypso cricketers; this is why we love u so much. This from a Tiger fan.

  • tanmoy0839158 on July 5, 2017, 1:42 GMT

    One should blame to the Selectors or the Captain who-ever chosen the team, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Rahane, Ashwin and Jadeja should not had been include in this Series in the first place.

  •   Gavin Grant on July 4, 2017, 21:26 GMT

    the one dhoni and kohli win for dont for india fans want them to be dropped. Theyre humans, keep that in mind. Saying india is better off without them is quite the same as saying india are better off having 9 players. Whether u like it or not if kohli and dhoni are dropped india will take a dive in the rankings just like windies when theyre top players were banned.

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