Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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West Indies came to within touching distance of hunting down what could've been the highest successful ODI chase at the Queen's Park Oval, but with the hosts needing five off the last ball, Mohammed Siraj nailed his yorker and kept them to just a bye. However, West Indies' fighting effort roused the Port of Spain crowd and captain Nicholas Pooran so much that he felt that the result was "like a win" for his side, especially after their crushing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bangladesh at the Providence earlier this month.
"It definitely feels like a win for us," Pooran told the host broadcaster at the post-match presentation. "Bitter-sweet [one], but yes we keep speaking about batting 50 overs and today we batted 50 overs and made 300-plus. It is difficult to lose but we will take this one.
"Obviously, as a group we are rebuilding and trying to figure out ODI cricket and coming up against the top teams in the world. Today, we did justice to our talent and yeah and just looking forward to the other games. Hopefully, we can go from strength to strength."
After Pooran sent India in, Shubman Gill and stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan ran away to a rapid start, but West Indies' bowlers varied their pace and lengths on a pitch that slowed down, limiting the visitors to 308 for 7. All up, India managed only 83 for 5 in their last 15 overs as Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales regularly took pace off and bowled into the pitch.
The two left-arm fingerspinners Akeal Hosein and Gudakesh Motie did their bit in the middle overs, returning combined figures of 20-0-105-3. They could've added another wicket to the tally had Motie not dropped Deepak Hooda in the outfield off Hosein in the 39th over.
West Indies' electric fielding, headlined by Pooran's direct hit from midwicket to run out Gill for 64 off 35 balls, was also vital to them reining India in.
"Yeah, definitely I must give credit to the bowlers," Pooran said. "Obviously, we didn't get to the best start in these conditions. We understand it was [a] really good batting track, but we did speak at the second water break and said we want to restrict them to 315 and actually to get them to less was commendable.
"[Gudakesh] Motie, Akeal [Hosein] and Alzarri [Joseph] - everyone came and executed their skills today. Really proud of the effort today after coming from the Bangladesh series. We spoke about [ticking] different boxes. We ticked three boxes actually: fielding, batting 50 overs and executing at the death."
A target of 309 looked beyond West Indies' reach at various points, but fifties from a fit-again Kyle Mayers (75) and Brandon King (54) and cameos from Pooran (25), Hosein (32*) and Romario Shepherd (39*) enabled them to drag the chase down to the last ball. Although West Indies just fell short in the end, Pooran insisted that West Indies always had the belief that they could overhaul the target.
"Yes definitely [had the belief], we need to believe in each other and not only in ourselves," Pooran said. "We're trying to get closer as a unit, trying to develop something here that could be special eventually. And I keep telling everyone that this is our story and this is our journey and it's going to have a lot of challenges. But I'm just happy that we're going forward in the right direction."
When legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal got rid of King and Rovman Powell with wide, loopy legbreaks, India might have felt like they had all but wrapped up the game. However, Hosein, who was primarily a middle-order batter than a bowler during his Under-19 days, and Shepherd, who was only drafted into the squad after Jason Holder tested positive for Covid-19, sprung a surprise on India, with an unbroken 53-run stand for the seventh wicket off 33 balls.
"Yes, there were some nerves," Dhawan said at the post-match presentation. "Yes, we were in quite a good position and nobody expected that the game will turn that way and the [West Indies] batsmen played really well. We kept our cool and we knew what to do and [made] one little change when we put a fine leg back after two-three boundaries went [through that region. We were happy about that."