You don’t always need high quality cricket to provide a nail-biting finish in sport. India and West Indies laid testament to the statement with a dull low-scoring gamethat somehow ended up to be a humdinger at the finish.
In a game that constantly oscillated between mediocricy and downright doltishness, West Indies sealed the deal with a superb finish to their defence. Defending 16 off the last two overs, Jason Holder and Kesrick Williams gave away just four runs while taking three wickets to help their side keep the series alive. They won the fourth ODI by 11 runs and left the series well poised at 1-2.
Holder was the star performer for the hosts, taking five wickets for 27 runs and putting a wet blanket over India’s hopes of a early finish to the game and the series.
Having restricted West Indies to 189 for 9 on a slow pitch at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, India put in a batting performance that would have put the most ardent cricket fan to sleep. Their reluctance to score quickly during the middle overs cost them badly at the end, when a spur of wickets left them with too much to do.
MS Dhoni‘s much-debated ‘take-it-to-the-last-over’ tactic failed spectacularly as the hosts put the brakes on the Indians’ scoring.
Dhoni scored at a rate of less than a run every two balls, but was helped that the required rate never really got out of hand, the highest it came to was around seven and a three quarters an over before the 48th over. He notched up his slowest ever fifty, getting there off 108 balls (88 being his previous slowest), and faced the highest number of dot balls ever in an ODI innings (70). That left India needing 55 off the last 43 balls, an equation India still would have fancied considering Dhoni’s presence at the crease.
A turning point arrived in the 44th over, when Roston Chase was tossed the ball. Dhoni had struggled against the similar off spin of Ashley Nurse and the move seemed to be backed by that logic. But the execution was all awry as Hardik Pandya and Dhoni combined to slam 16 off the over. India had struck gold. The next over, by Alzarri Joseph saw four wides and India were within touching distance of a win.
Once again, however, there was a twist. Pandya fell for a 21-ball 20 while Ravindra Jadeja (11 off 11) followed soon after. India needed 16 off the last two overs, and Kuldeep Yadav could only manage to take a single after eating up three deliveries. Off the last ball of the over, Dhoni holed out to long on as the hosts hammered the nail in the coffin.
India’s cautious approach came after they had gotten their chase off to a terrible start. Shikhar Dhawan meekly chipped Joseph to be out for five, while Virat Kohli was once again done in by Holder’s short ball. When Dinesh Karthik, one of three changes in the Indian side, fell for two soon after, India were in dire straits at 47 for 3, but Windies still had a determined Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane to contend with. Rahane notched up another fifty in the series and India looked comfortable as long as he was around, but once he fell, Dhoni and Co. could not complete the job.
West Indies’ plans to the former India captain were spot on, and they managed to exert pressure to fluster the usually unflustered Dhoni. By the time India and Dhoni realised the folly in their tactics of taking their time, they were too far behind the game and threw it away.
Earlier, India lost the toss for the fourth straight time in the series, but yet again they showed that it played little hindrance to their dominance over the home team, Windies as they restricted the opposition to 189 for 9.
West Indies made a hash of a number of starts their batsmen enjoyed, with their top five all getting to at least 20 before being dismissed.
Kuldeep was once again India’s star with the ball, taking two wickets for 31, while Hardik Pandya and Umesh Yadav took three apiece. Virat Kohli had indicated that the Indians will use the last two ODIs to give their bench a chance to prove themselves, and the inclusion of Dinesh Karthik, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja was testament to that claim.
Evin Lewis and Kyle Hope had combined to give Windies their first fifty-run opening stand in 13 ODIs, but India were still able to maintain a good amount of control with some tight bowling. India had both the openers back in the hut in the space of 27 balls. Pandya had Hope out caught in the deep with a short ball, while Kuldeep got Lewis to chip a ball tamely to Virat Kohli. Both batsmen were out for 35.
Shai Hope and Roston Chase added 41 runs for the third wicket, but again just as Windies looked to hit the accelerator, India struck back. Kuldeep had Chase out in the same way he got the batsman in the last game. Chase failed to read Kuldeep’s googly and missed the flick to find himself bowled for 24.
Windies’ innings quickly came unravelling after that. Jadeja bowled out his 10 overs straight for 48 runs, but the pacers and Kuldeep ensured the left-armer’s off day didn’t cost the team. Hope edged one down the leg side soon after, while Umesh removed Jason Holder and Rovman Powell in quick succession.
West Indies search for a big finish eluded them. With seven wickets down, they could only muster 17 runs between overs 41.2 and 47.2. They eventually ended with just under 190, a total they just about managed to defend.
Brief scores: Windies 189/9 in 50 overs (Evin Lewis 35, Kyle Hope 35; Umesh Yadav 3-36, Hardik Pandya 3-40 beat India 178 in 49.4 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 60, MS Dhoni 54; Jason Holder 5-27, Alzarri Joseph 2-46) by 11 runs.