India 387 for 5 (Rohit 159, Rahul 102, Iyer 53, Pant 39) beat West Indies 280 (Hope 78, Pooran 75, Shami 3-39, Kuldeep 3-52) by 107 runs
For the second time in a must-win game during West Indies' tour of India, the home batsmen stood up to post a well-above-par total. Often, during the last four-five years, the batsmen could have been accused of conservative batting, leaving the bowlers seemingly impressive but ultimately subpar totals to defend. Not in Mumbai in the T20I decider, not in Visakhapatnam when asked to bat to keep the ODI series alive.
What they got was a glimpse of what their outrageously talented batting unit can achieve when they go all out to give their under-pressure bowling a total to defend in the dew. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul scored hundreds in a 37-over partnership, and Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer followed up by unleashing mayhem in the last 10 overs.
In the end, India had a total of 387 at a ground where West Indies tied a chase of 321 last year. The way Nicholas Pooran and Shai Hope went after the middle overs, India would have been thankful for those extra 60 runs.
Rohit fell for 159 in the 44th over, his eighth score of 150 or more, which was an improvement on the record he already holds, but the headline at that moment was that he had fallen short of a fourth double, which would have been an improvement on another record he already holds. By the end of it, West Indies would have hoped Rohit had got his double because his replacement Pant took the carnage to another level. Pant's 19-ball 36 forced West Indies to go for the offspin of Roston Chase; a reputed power hitter against spin, Iyer cashed in with a 31-run over to finish on 53 off 32. The two added 73 in four overs.
A pleasing sign for the team management will be that it wasn't just the youngsters batting to their murderous potential. Rahul and Rohit began the attempts to increase the scoring rate from the 21st over onwards. The start had been good in flat conditions with Rahul not letting India feel the pinch of a slightly but typically slow Rohit start. India were 98 in 20 overs, an old recipe for a seemingly effortless score of 320-330 for India. Soon they showed they were not going to be happy with that.
In the next five overs, India took 47 runs, with Rohit helping himself to five fours and Rahul to four. West Indies were desperate for a quiet spell of play for which they needed a wicket in order to tie the new man in. That opportunity came when Rohit threw his bat at Chase in the 28th over, but Shimron Hetmyer dropped the catch running in from long-off. Soon Rohit hit another gear while Rahul could cruise towards his hundred at a run a ball.
There was all kinds of incredible hitting happening now: straight hits, hits over cover, using the pace to dunk balls over short fine leg. It was in the 37th over that Alzarri Joseph managed to get rid of Rahul. Kieron Pollard managed to follow it up with a golden duck for Virat Kohli. And yet it failed to produce that slow spell.
Rohit went on hitting at will while Iyer scored at a run a ball. The first signs of fatigue showed in the 43rd over. Rohit had scored 55 off 29 after reaching his hundred. Against the left-arm spin of Khary Pierre, though, he swung and missed a bit, and that brought about his dismissal in the next over.
West Indies were hoping for a slowdown to carry some momentum into the chase, but they also had two of India's strongest power hitters to contend with. Pant played havoc with West Indies' bowler of the tour, Sheldon Cottrell. His two sixes over the off side - his less-favoured flank - off Joseph made Cottrell go straight but with similar results. A 24-run over from Cottrell brought Chase on, whom Iyer hit for four sixes and a four. At 217, this was the third-highest toll India had taken of the last 20 overs in an ODI innings.
West Indies would have hoped to enter those last 20 overs with the game still alive. India would have known they couldn't afford to sit back and just defend especially because the pitch quickens under lights, and the dew makes the outfield quicker. The move to bring in Shardul Thakur, a specialist bowler, for the allrounder Shivam Dube paid dividends when he got Evin lewis with a bouncer in the 11th over. Soon, Iyer's sensational fielding, and the rare turning delivery from Ravindra Jadeja made it 86 for 3 after 16 overs.
West Indies' response was to counterattack. Pooran and Hope went after most of the bowling. Catches began to go down. Quick hits began to slip out of hands. Jadeja was hit out. Deepak Chahar didn't have much impact. Somehow, they managed to get the better of Kuldeep Yadav too. Shami's first ball back was flicked disdainfully for a six. In 29 overs, West Indies had 192 for 3. They still had a long way to go, but it appeared they wouldn't be out of it going into the last 20 overs.
That's when Shami happened. In his second over back, he bowled the perfect bouncer to Pooran, wide enough for him to have to drag his pull. That the top edge still nearly carried for a six showed the importance of the line. Kuldeep didn't drop it this time. A full ball first ball made Pollard the second captain to register a golden duck on the day.
West Indies now began to swing their bats, and Kuldeep was clever enough to register his second ODI hat-trick to kill the game off.