Four years ago, almost to the day, in the same city of London, Ravindra Jadeja was a hare caught in the headlights. He could neither get out nor hit out, and his 25 off 35 in that Twenty20 match against England - India were knocked out of that World T20 - earned him what seemed like a lifetime of ridicule. He wasn't supposed to succeed at international cricket. He did. He wasn't supposed to succeed outside Asia at least. He has, for now.
When Jadeja was introduced in this Champions Trophy match, West Indies had marched to 92 for 1 in 17 overs, and Johnson Charles, an awkward batsman to deal with, was timing everything he hit. He had carted Bhuvneshwar Kumar, deflected Umesh Yadav and lofted Virat Kohli and even R Ashwin. India were staring at a big total, but Jadeja twirled that ball like he does his new 'tache. Some turned and some didn't; most of them were headed for the stumps, but at different speeds; five of them got wickets, two lbws and one bowled; West Indies went from 102 for 1 to 182 for 9, and India into the semi-final of the Champions Trophy. West Indies now need to beat South Africa to progress; Pakistan were knocked out.
The target of 234 - thanks to Jadeja and despite Darren Sammy's 56 off 35 towards the end, proved no inconvenience for India - whose openers were almost in a contest to outdo each other's attractive shots. Their 101-run stand was the first time since 2007 that India had put up back-to-back hundred openings outside Asia. Rohit Sharma might have fallen for 52 off 56, but Shikhar Dhawan went on to score his third century in his last three international innings, all reached at a strike rate of 100 or more
India won with 10.5 overs to spare. It didn't start off that easy after they put West Indies in. Johnson Charles, who scored 60 off 55, was an irritant for India, who had managed to get past Chris Gayle before he could do any real damage. Charles is not a pretty batsman. Nor is he a rhythm player. Form and run of play don't matter much to him. Once he starts hitting them sweetly, though, he can find unusual spaces on a field of play. He is a man you want out early, and as his stats suggest it hasn't been difficult to get him out early. However, until today whenever he had reached 50, he had crossed 100.
Charles was already 50 when Jadeja came on to bowl. That included a burst from 6 off 17 to 30 off 26 in six boundaries in the ninth, 10th and 11th over. After that, he didn't let Ashwin and Kohli - the latter bowled before Jadeja - settle at all. On came Jadeja, and bowled a maiden to Darren Bravo. On the face of it, there was nothing special about that over: just accurate and quick spin bowling.
In Jadeja's next, Charles tried to sweep him hard. He connected, but Jadeja had square leg positioned at the right spot. The next ball was quick, went with the arm, and Charles played all across it. Gone. Trademark Jadeja dismissal. Charles should have known better. Now Jadeja began to employ the vice grip, bowling quick, at the stumps, not knowing himself which will turn and which won't.
Ishant Sharma - match figures of 10-1-43-1 was an able ally at the other end. He bowled short of a length on a dry pitch, and slipped in a maiden with the unsure Marlon Samuels. In the next over, Jadeja got another dart on target, but the umpire saw an inside edge. Jadeja insisted on a review, convinced MS Dhoni, and found out that the ball had hit the pad first, and plumb in front.
Dhoni returned the favour in Jadeja's next over when he went down the leg side to superbly catch a deflection from Ramnaresh Sarwan. It wasn't the best delivery Jadeja had bowled, but West Indies had nonetheless gone from 102 for 1 to 109 for 4. Darren Bravo now got stuck even as Dwayne Bravo batted industriously leading up to the Powerplay. Darren Bravo finally threw it away just before the Powerplay as he danced down to Ashwin and was stumped for 35 off 83.
After India got lucky with Dwayne Barvo's wicket, others lost their heads and their wickets. Not Sammy. He lifted that bat high, and began to swing. He had to do a fair bit of farming of the strike because Kemar Roach had joined him with 4.3 overs still to go. He rearranged some analyses, hit four sixes and five fours, and without any tangible contribution from Roach, added 51 for the last wicket.
This total was supposed to give West Indies hope. Dhawan and Rohit were to dash that hope soon. From the moment Rohit cut Roach for four in the first over and Dhawan drove Ravi Rampaul through cover for another in the fourth, the match was going only one way. West Indies were either too short or too full, the openers matched each other stroke for stroke, and the only matter of uncertainty towards the end was whether Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik would get to their personal milestones.
Dhawan was 96, Karthik was 47, and India needed eight when Bravo bowled short. Dhawan upper-cut it over third man, took off the helmet, stood with his arms aloft, and then played out five dots to let Karthik get to fifty in the next over. Karthik did so with a drive over extra cover.