India complete WI series sweep without much trouble

Collectively, West Indies were a shambles, their batting in particular. Yet again, their top order was in give-away mode, playing with the gaiety of recreational cricket. 169 all out, chasing 266 for victory, completed a 3-0 ODI series sweep for India. Under lights at Motera, the hosts barely broke a sweat. Commentating for the host broadcaster, Ian Bishop called for setting up a High-Performance Centre in the Caribbean.

The West Indies bowling was good and some individual gains were their only takeaway from this defeat. Alzarri Joseph and Odean Smith enhanced their reputations ahead of the Indian Premier League auction.

Joseph went unsold last year. In all likelihood, it would be different this time. Smith (36, 18 balls) added his batting pyrotechnics to his bowling, laying into Kuldeep Yadav and probably upsetting the chinaman bowler’s auction prospects a bit. But in the context of the third ODI, which India won by 96 runs, it was just delaying the inevitable.

The hosts, too, suffered a top-order collapse, but that was mostly down to the excellent Joseph (2/54), bending his back on a bouncy and a little two-paced pitch. Virat Kohli fell prey to a soft dismissal, caught down the leg-side, something that happens during a lean patch. Kohli is having an elongated one, and he had a rueful smile after getting out for a duck.

Rohit Sharma, who had started off with a rasping square cut against Kemar Roach off the first ball of the match, was Joseph’s first scalp. The India captain went for a cover drive without moving his feet and inside-edged a fullish delivery on to the stumps. Kohli’s wicket a couple of balls later gave Joseph a double-wicket maiden. It was the second time in the series that he dismissed Sharma and Kohli in the same over.

The returning Shikhar Dhawan departed in Smith’s first over, failing to handle the extra bounce and India were 42/3 in the 10th over. KL Rahul sat out of this game owing to a niggle and Shreyas Iyer came at No. 4 after recovering from Covid. He had Rishabh Pant for company to resurrect India’s innings. Both scored half-centuries, in contrasting styles, and added 110 runs for the fourth wicket. If Pant’s knock was silken, Iyer’s was a tad laboured. But the latter gradually grew into the game.

Pant’s batting in a way defines the Orwellian ‘doublethink’, which simultaneously accepts responsibility and irresponsibility. He is capable of sublime as well as messy stuff. Nobody knows which Pant would turn up. On Friday, it was the former, with all his grace and wide range of shots. The left-hander gave himself time, didn’t err in shot selection and made batting look easy. He was the only batsman who looked comfortable right from the beginning.

Making it look easy

Pant charged down the track only when Fabian Allen lured him with flight. The ball went several rows back over the long-on boundary. From thereon, he was having a walk in the park. Dancing down to Kemar Roach and flat-batting a delivery from the pace bowler for four showed his audacity. A 47-ball fifty was the best piece of batting on the day. It promised a lot more, but Pant misjudged the length of a Hayden Walsh delivery and was caught behind for 56.

Iyer was taking the game deep, looking set for a big one. His dismissal on 80 came against the run of play. He went inside-out and tried to clear long-off without getting to the pitch of a Walsh delivery, giving the leg-spinner his second wicket.

Deepak Chahar scored a valuable run-a-ball 38. He had singlehandedly taken India very close to victory in the third ODI in South Africa. The team management had preferred Shardul Thakur over him in the first two matches here. Given an opportunity, the swing-bowling all-rounder put in another fine performance; two wickets on top of his batting contribution.

Once India had put up 265, they were in command. West Indies had bowled more than three extra overs – 18 wides and a no-ball.

The munificence of the West Indies top order made the hosts’ job easy. A Mohammed Siraj nip-backer struck Shai Hope above the knee-roll. But the opener chose to walk, when a review would have overturned the on-field umpire’s LBW decision as the ball was heading over the stumps.

Brandon King causally poked at a Chahar outswinger and was caught by Suryakumar Yadav at second slip. Shamarh Brooks softly sliced another Chahar delivery to Iyer at point and Darren Bravo went for an expansive drive, playing away from his body, against Prasidh Krishna, when Sharma had kept a second slip. Kohli gleefully accepted the catch. At 68/4, the tourists were down. When Prasidh beautifully set up Jason Holder and did him in with extra bounce, they were out.

Kuldeep returned to the fold as Yuzvendra Chahal’s replacement after a seven-month surgery-forced hiatus. Sharma brought him on when there was very little pressure and the spinner accounted for Fabian Allen and Nicholas Pooran. But under the pump against Smith, he looked clueless.

A couple of dropped catches, both off Siraj’s bowling, didn’t go down well with the India captain. Sharma made his displeasure known.

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