A series that was lacking intensity got exactly that in last night’s third & final match at Chennai where India won in a heart-stopper. The batting heroics of Shikhar Dhawan ensured that India made it to the final over with just five runs required, but the task proved to be more difficult than anticipated as both sides were hell-bent on winning.
Wrapping up the series in the second match at Lucknow, this dead-rubber wasn’t expected to produce anything out of the ordinary given India’s dominance in the first two games. With the series already won, the Indians decided to leave out star-duo Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav in exchange for spinners Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal. With nothing to lose, the Windies went in unchanged hoping they could end their tour of India on a high. Winning the toss and electing to bat, the visitors maintained a watchful eye against seamer Khaleel Ahmed before releasing the pressure valve against the Indian spinners and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who was uncharacteristically-expensive.
Deciding to roll the dice once more with Shimron Hetmyer at the top of the order, the Windies sluggish-start to the innings quickly turned into a quest for boundaries as the opening pair started to unleash their fury on the bowling attack. A 51-run opening stand between Shai Hope and Hetmyer gave the tourists a brilliant platform to launch off, it was just a shame that one of the two couldn’t hang around for longer. Hetmyer’s dismissal was the most disappointing of the lot, he cut the ball on the up straight down deep backward point’s throat. Windies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin didn’t look overly great at the crease apart from dancing down the wicket and lofting a six over the midwicket boundary, he eventually chopped one on soon after for a run-a-ball 15.
Batting at No. 3, Darren Bravo looked rock-solid at the crease with some powerful punches down the ground as well as rotating the strike frequently, but it was Nicholas Pooran who well & truly lived up to his lofty-striking potential with a 25-ball blitz in Chennai. Teaming up with Bravo at the crease, Pooran unleashed some almighty blows over the rope leaving the Indian skipper bemused. The 23-year-old has always been a prolific striker of the ball, his strike rate in T20 cricket is 141.12 but he outdid himself against India reaching a colossal-212 in his unbeaten 53 which featured 4 sixes and 4 fours. An unbeaten 87-run partnership between Bravo and Pooran boosted the Windies total to 181/3 which was expected to be more than competitive on this slowish-Chennai wicket.
Chasing 182 runs for victory, skipper Rohit Sharma’s early departure didn’t do any favours for India as Carlos Brathwaite clutched a catch at mid-off to send the opposition captain on his way. KL Rahul was the next victim as Windies quick Oshane Thomas bated the right-hander into playing at a standard delivery outside off which caught the edge and carried through to Denesh Ramdin. When Rishabh Pant made his way to the crease at 2-45, the scoring rate started to drop as Kieran Pollard and Keemo Paul stopped the flow of runs for a period of 2-3 overs. Having leaked runs for most of the series, skipper Carlos Brathwaite was the bowler that India decided to go after as they attempted to get their innings back on track. Two boundaries off the bat of Pant that over did the trick for India.
Both Dhawan and Pant continued to chip away on this slow batting surface, boundaries proving hard to come by at times. A couple of overs saw India score just one boundary, sometimes none as they continued to run hard between wickets to avoid stagnation.
When Pant’s middle stump was finally knocked back by Keemo Paul for a well-made 58, all of a sudden it was game on again. Manish Pandey’s frail-start to the innings featuring three dot balls continued to build up unwanted pressure, it looked as if Shikhar Dhawan would have to win it for the home side. Requiring just one run for victory, Shikhar Dhawan departed for 92 off 62 balls after clubbing it straight to Kieron Pollard at long-on. All of a sudden, India needed one run off the last ball to win with Manish Pandey on strike. Tapping it gently to mid-on, Fabian Allen throws himself to the right and gets a hand on the ball but deflects it past midwicket as India scamper through for a run….GAME, SET AND MATCH!