NEW DELHI: If cricket ever needed a perfect opening to crack the USA market, it can be safely said that the first T20I between India and West Indies on Saturday in Florida has served the purpose. Several records were broken as India fell agonizingly short of the target of 246 runs by just one run with Dwayne Bravo producing a memorable performance to help his team pull off a magical win and take a 1-0 lead in two-match series at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground in Lauderhill.
Rahul recorded an unbeaten maiden century off 46 deliveries – the joint second-fastest in the format – as he battled pain and few nervy moments to push India on the brink of completing the highest ever successful run-chase in T20Is only for Bravo to spoil the party as he defended eight runs in the final over to keep India to 244/4.
Rahul, the third Indian batsman after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma to hit a T20I ton, must was left heartbroken as Dhoni guided the final delivery of the Indian chase straight into the hands of Marlon Samuels who had dropped a dolly off the first ball of the same over. India needed two off that ball but the win wasn’t theirs to be.
India were given two early jolts in their chase of Windies’ total after a brisk start. Dwayne Bravo was at the centre of both the dismissals. The first came in the third over when Ajinkya Rahane (7) guided Andre Russell to the third man region but an athletic Bravo pulled off a stunner near the fence to send the opener packing. But it was the next blow that silenced the crowd. Virat Kohli looked in ominous touch after coming in to bat at no 3 as his three sweetly timed fours proved. Bravo, bowling the fifth over of the innings, kept his fourth delivery short and Kohli’s eye lit up. He attempted a pull but the ball kissed his glove and went into the hands of Andre Russell.
In the larger context of the game, that phase turned out to be an aberration as Rahul, Rohit and Dhoni sliced up the Windies bowlers, dishing out a similar treatment that was meted to them earlier in the match.
Rahul was the wrecker-in-chief, mirroring the form and consistency in finding boundaries in a manner that has now become synonymous with Kohli. His 12 fours and five sixes made the chase of a massive target look gettable.
After the early dismissals, Rahul and Rohit (62) got together to steer the chase, adding 89 runs between them for the third wicket. After Rohit’s departure, Rahul found another able ally in Dhoni (43) as the duo kept pace with the asking rate.
Earlier, India were put to the sword in their maiden international cricketing foray on Amercian soil as West Indies batsmen hammered them to post a massive 245/6. The thrashing was led by opening batsman Evin Lewis who, playing in his second ever T20I, recorded a 48-ball ton that had nine sixes and five fours in it as WI larruped a world record 21 sixes in their innings.
Johnson Charles began the carnage from the first over itself as Mohammad Shami, playing his first T20I in two years, was clobbered for a six and two fours as the paceman leaked 17 runs. That over set the tone of the West Indies innings as the two-time World Twenty20 champions belted runs with ridiculous ease, carving the Indian bowlers all around the park after being sent in by India captain Dhoni. In just 25 deliveries, they zoomed past the 50-run mark with Charles leading the run-charge. He brought up his own fifty in just 20 balls – the fastest by any batsman against India in the format. Right after he had reached the milestone, his partner Lewis, relatively quiet so far, jumped into the fray with two consecutive sixes off spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
Even Dhoni’s most trusted lieutenant R Ashwin was proved ineffective after being brought to bowl the final over of the Powerplay, in which he was taken for 14 runs.
Charles was well on course to break the record for the fastest T20I century as he kept pounding the hapless Indian bowlers but Shami returned for his second over and against the run of play, Charles ended up attempting a needless paddle sweep to be cleaned up for 33-ball 79.
But Lewis took on from where his opening partner left. The highlight being five successive sixes off Stuart Binny in the 11th over – just about missing the opportunity to replicate Yuvraj Singh’s feat of six sixes in an over against Stuart Broad.
As Lewis continued to exploit the short boundaries, for the second time in the Windies innings, a batsman was well on course for a ton and with a potential to break the record for the fastest in the format. Charles might have squandered the golden chance but Lewis gobbled it with both hands, slamming a brilliant 48-ball ton.
Jadeja did provide some relief in the 15th over, picking two wickets including that of centurion Charles (100) and dangerman Andre Russell (22) but the platform that the opening pair laid was enough for West Indies to record their highest T20I total – third highest overall.
India almost managed to surpass that but fell at the final hurdle.
Brief score: West Indies 245/6 (Evin Lewis 100, Johnson Charles 79) vs India (Ravindra Jadeja 2/39, Jasprit Bumrah 2/47) beat India 244/4 (KL Rahul 110*, Rohit Sharma 62; Dwayne Bravo 2/37) by one run