For the second successive One Day International (ODI) at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, the West Indies cricketers were pretty good. Unfortunately for the host team, India were better.
Set a target of 312 runs to win—40 more than the Port of Spain venue’s record chase of 272, set by Pakistan in 1988—India obliged.
Once more, it came down to the final over. Yet again, the Maroon Men froze at the moment of truth.
It would be unfair to single out allrounder Kyle Mayers. The fact that West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran handed him the ball for the last over—ahead of spinners Akeal Hosein and Hayden Walsh Jr—was probably testament to his good work earlier in the contest.
But Mayers would not want to remember his full toss in the fourth ball, which India lower order batsman Axar Patel promptly dispatched to decide the tense contest.
“When I went out, I aimed for 10-11 an over,” said Patel, who got in the team due to the pull-out of several senior players. “We thought it could be done as we have IPL experience. We wanted to be calm and keep over the rate.
“This was special as this is my first ODI since 2017—even my first fifty came here. Winning the series too makes me feel wonderful.”
For the West Indies, it was an eight straight ODI defeat. And had the Cricket West Indies (CWI) not arranged a three-match outing in the Netherlands, which the Maroon Men won 3-0, their losing run would now stand at 13 successive games.
After Friday’s opening loss to India, Pooran suggested that it still felt like a win due to his team’s performance. Today’s failure clearly tested his ability to see the bright side, though, as he covered his head in a kerchief after Patel’s winning shot.
“We lost it in the last overs,” said Pooran. “Axar played well and we didn’t hold our nerves. We could not keep things down in the last five overs.”
The crestfallen faces were a far cry from the optimism evident at the start of the contest, as Pooran again won the toss and West Indies opened with genuine hope. Literally.
It was Shai Hope’s 100th ODI and, sporting the number 100 on his back, he was determined to mark the occasion with something special.
One hundred and twenty five balls later, Hope managed just that with his 13th ODI century, which was only his second ton in the Caribbean. He is only the 10th cricketer to score a century in his 100th game—India’s stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan was the ninth.
“To get 100 games under my belt,” said Hope, “and to get 100 on my 100th game means so much to me.”
Hope managed 115 from 135 deliveries (8×4, 3×6) and shared in two 50-run partnerships with Kyle Mayers and Shamarh Brooks and a 117-run pairing with Pooran, who contributed with a dashing 74 runs from 77 balls.
West Indies plundered 96 runs off the last 10 overs to leave Dhawan and his troops facing a record chase. To which Patel presumably said: “hold my beer”.
In truth, though, there was little indication of the Indian fireworks to come, as West Indies started the second innings with real focus and intensity while the visitors initially struggled to get their heads in the game.
Dhawan nearly lost his head altogether when a short-pitched delivery from Romario Shepherd caught him flush on his helmet in the 11th over. The Indian captain put on a brave face but was out the very next ball—caught at the boundary by an agile Mayers for 13.
Suitably impressed, Pooran asked Mayers: “care for a bowl?” And the Barbadian allrounder claimed the next two wickets, as he had Shubman Gill caught and bowled for 43 off 49 balls (5×4) and induced an inside edge to bowl Suryakumar Yadav for nine.
India were 79-3.
Enter the duo of Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson, a pairing as seemingly incongruous as Abbott and Costello. Iyer, the gifted number three batsman, built his innings effortlessly—as though he was at the mall on a weekday afternoon with time to kill.
Samson, a bullish wicketkeeper-batsman, was the antsy sort trying to hurry up the cashier.
Together, they put on 99 for the fourth wicket before Iyer (63 from 71 balls, 4×4, 1×6) was a touch unlucky to be given out lbw to the lanky Alzarri Joseph in the 33rd over.
Samson (54 from 51 balls, 3×6, 3×4) got his own walking papers via the run out route in the 39th over, after a sharp throw from Mayers—that man again!—hit Shepherd on the thigh and shin before smashing into the stumps.
India were 205-5 and without their last recognised batsman, with just 11 overs to go. And by the time Patel, the new batsman, and Deepak Hooda got acquainted in the middle, the visitors needed 100 runs from 60 balls at a run rate of 10 per over.
“Our domestic and IPL cricket keeps us ready, as we play in front of big crowds,” said Dhawan, in the aftermath of the thrilling contest. “As Axar said, he’s done it multiple times in IPL.”
The 41st over, bowled by Hosein, went for 11 runs with one six from Patel. Shepherd took the ball and conceded 14, with a six from Patel and a four from Hooda.
Hosein’s next over yielded 11 runs with another Patel six.
Pooran reintroduced Joseph and he restricted India to eight runs with no boundary. Hosein followed that up with Hooda’s wicket in the 45th over, which also yielded eight runs.
India were 264/6 and chasing 48 runs from 30 balls. Pooran kept Joseph on. But this time he conceded 16 runs, with four byes and two dangerous no balls that offered free hits.
Joseph did dismiss Shardul Thakur in that over, but the wicket was less consequential than the wayward deliveries. India’s required run rate had dropped to eight.
Shepherd bowled the 47th over and went for 13 runs, with two fours from Patel and one from decidedly skittish-looking debutante Avesh Khan. But then Joseph offered just four runs to the India batsmen from his last go, while Jayden Seales took a wicket for the loss of seven runs in the 49th over.
India required eight runs from six balls.
“We felt that it got easier to hit spinners [as the game went on],” said Pooran.
So he looked past Hosein and Walsh and summoned Mayers. The Barbadian’s previous seven overs, remember, yielded 40 overs (at an economy rate of 5.71) and claimed two wickets to boot.
But in Mayers’ fourth delivery, having already conceded two singles, he misplaced his yorker. And Patel hit him into the stands.
Not only did India set a new record at the Oval, it was the fourth highest chase in the final 10 overs of an ODI contest and third best comeback in any 50 over match in the Caribbean.
On Wednesday, the two nations meet again in the Oval and if India win it will be the fourth time that West Indies have been whitewashed in an ODI series in this calendar year alone.
Somewhere, in an infinitely more relaxing atmosphere, former West Indies captain Kieron Pollard probably exhaled slowly.
Toss: West Indies
West Indies 311/6 (50 overs) (Shai Hope 115, Nicholas Pooran 74, Kyle Mayers 39; Shardul Thakur 3/54)
India 312/8 (49.4 overs) (Axar Patel 64*, Shreyas Iyer 63, Sanju Samson 54; Alzarri Joseph 2/46, Kyle Mayers 2/48)
Result: India win by two wickets (with two balls remaining)
Man of the Match: Axar Patel
Series result: India lead three match series 2-0
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