Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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2nd ODI, Port of Spain, July 24, 2022, India tour of West Indies and United States of America
India 312 for 8 (Axar 64*, Iyer 63, Samson 54, Joseph 2-46, Mayers 2-48) beat West Indies 311 for 6 (Hope 115, Pooran 74, Thakur 3-54) by two wickets
Axar Patel smashed India's second-fastest ODI fifty against West Indies, leading the way in a collective batting effort in a big chase as India overhauled West Indies' 311 in the second ODI in Port of Spain. Shai Hope's hundred in his 100th ODI and Nicholas Pooran's attacking 74 went in vain, as West Indies lost the match - and with it, the series - despite dominating the majority of their defence.
India needed 100 to win from 60 balls with five wickets in hand, and Axar and Hooda were at the crease. Hooda fell for 33 with 56 to get off 36, leaving Axar and Shardul Thakur to complete the job. By then, Axar had already clobbered three sixes. More were on the way.
The turning point arrived when 48 was required off the last five overs. Though he dismissed Thakur, Alzarri Joseph conceded 16 - including two above-waist full-toss no-balls - in the 46th, and West Indies missed running No. 10 Avesh Khan out off the last ball. Next over, Axar slammed two fours and Avesh added one more off Romario Shepherd. Suddenly the equation was 19 off 18.
Avesh wouldn't go without collecting his share of runs even though he had earlier leaked 54 in six overs on ODI debut. He hit ten off 12 balls, asking Axar to wipe out the last eight runs in the company of Mohammed Siraj. Axar, in red-hot touch, got a full toss from Kyle Mayers, which he sent flying over the bowler's head to finish things off with two balls to go.
The chase was set up by a firm start from Shubman Gill, and then a 99-run stand between Iyer and Samson. Gill made up for his partner Shikhar Dhawan's struggles with a serene 43 off 49 balls. But when he and Suryakumar Yadav fell in the space of 11 balls, India were 79 for 3 in the 18th over.
Samson got to his maiden ODI fifty - his knock of 54 off 51 balls included three fours and three sixes - and was at his best when clearing the long-off boundary by lofting the spinners, high elbows and all in full display. Iyer, on the other hand, had had a sedate start, managing only 19 off his first 33 deliveries. That is when he broke free to finish with 63 off 71 balls, cutting, pulling and lifting for boundaries.
The fact that India had as many as 312 to chase was down to Hope and Pooran's fourth-wicket stand of 117, 74 of which came off Pooran's bat. Hope got 115 - his third triple-figure score in 11 ODI innings.
Having taken 124 balls to get to 94, Hope swung back-to-back sixes off Yuzvendra Chahal in the 45th over to get to his landmark and cap an expensive day for Chahal, of whom he took all three of his sixes. Chahal finished with 1 for 69 in nine overs.
But it was not just Hope who took a liking to Chahal; Pooran too bashed three sixes - including two in the 39th over - off him. Their partnership, just short of a-run-a-ball, gradually took the momentum away from India, who had struck twice in quick succession after an aggressive start by West Indies.
Through Hope and his opening partner Mayers, the hosts had put on 71 in the first ten overs - their joint-highest score in the period in ODIs since 2020. By the time Hooda broke through, pouching a simple return-catch from Mayers off the first ball of the tenth over, the pair had already smashed ten fours and a six. Mayers led the way in that stand, hitting 39 off 23 balls, as Avesh took the biggest beating.
Mayers timed and placed the ball equally well, and thrashed it around too. Once West Indies lost two wickets for three runs, Pooran took over the attacking role.
On 11 off his first 26 balls, he hit the first of his six sixes when he went hard and flat over long-off in the 32nd over; three overs later, he skipped down to send Chahal sailing back over his head. While sixes were hit off Axar and Avesh as well, Hope kept the scoreboard ticking at the other end.
Hope's innings was one of three parts: he started with 22 off 21 balls, then got 73 from his next 103 deliveries, and hit 20 off his next 11 balls. It all added up to carry West Indies firmly towards the 300-run mark. He produced impressive drives and punches - and a poke through deep third for four - to start the day with Mayers, accumulated singles and ran well along with Pooran, and went for the slogs in the end after Pooran fell in the 44th over.
Cameos from Shamarh Brooks, Rovman Powell and Shepherd helped West Indies' cause. Brooks got going the moment Mayers fell, and scored 35 off 36; Powell and Shepherd provided the finishing touches.
But eventually, the day belonged to Axar and Co despite the heroics of Pooran and Hope, especially the latter, who got to both his fifty and hundred with a six, in Virender Sehwag fashion, even as he played a more anchor-ish role.
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