MS Dhoni had advanced so far down the wicket to attack Fabian Allen that Shai Hope had two chances to stump him. He missed both—as well as the stumps at the bowler’s end as the batsmen tried successfully to steal a single!
From 154 for 4 at that point in the 34th over, Virat Kohli’s India went on to post a total of 268, with Dhoni’s invaluable contribution an unbeaten 56 off 61 balls.
On that surface at Old Trafford, barring a special hand from Christopher ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle or the twice-in-a-lifetime heroics of a Carlos Brathwaite, that target was always going to be beyond Jason Holder’s disappointing West Indies. But neither player could produce the goods on the day and none of the others stepped up to take their place.
In less than 35 overs, it was over. The WI limped to 143, leaving India victorious by 125 runs and, on 11 points, one win away from a secure semi-final spot.
Despite impressively and expeditiously flattening Pakistan in their opening game, WI remained on three points after seven games. They are, therefore, as good as on the plane, once the formality of their remaining games against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have been completed next week.
In his post-match interview, Holder identified the team’s fielding as one area which has to be improved. Unsurprisingly, he never mentioned captaincy although, to be fair, he led from the front with the ball today.
He noted that they did not feel that they were out of it after the India innings.
“At the half-way point, we thought we could get there but obviously it was more than what we needed to do (sic).”
Noting that the bowlers ‘have had a reasonable campaign’ and ‘gave a big effort in each game,’ he singled out Kemar Roach and Sheldon Cottrell for special mention, offering no explanation as to why others had been preferred to Roach in the early games.
Thanks to the bowlers, the match, like the tournament, had begun quite promisingly for Holder’s men. Winning the toss and batting, India lost multiple ODI double-century maker Rohit Sharma with just 29 runs on the board. Roach served up a peach of a delivery which brushed the inside edge of the opener’s bat—the third umpire adjudicated—on its way through to Hope.
Roach (10-0-36-3) would switch ends and return for a second spell in which he claimed Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav in successive overs. That reduced India to a modest 140 for 4 at the end of 29 overs. In the interim, skipper Holder, whom Roach would replace at the James Anderson End, produced a seven-over spell of accurate disciplined bowling which yielded a mere 18 runs, 13 of which came off the last two.
Holder, whom one online writer called ‘a silent assassin,’ was very impressive, opening with two maidens and conceding only five runs off his first five overs. He also bowled opener KL Rahul with an excellent delivery which left the batsman shaking his head. When he returned for a second three-over spell, he claimed the important scalp of his opposite number, with a mere 11 overs left in the innings and India still 16 short of 200.
Man-of-the-Match Kohli (72 off 82, 8 x 4) was caught by substitute fielder Darren Bravo as he tried to force Holder (10-2-33-2) through the on-side. He was manifestly furious with himself, having played cautiously throughout, doubtless eyeing a rapid increase in the tempo in the third powerplay. And out of the public eye, he must have been even more furious when Holder called up Carlos Brathwaite in over #42.
Dhoni and Hardik Pandya (46 off 38, 5 x 4) capitalised, taking 33 of Brathwaite’s three overs to help India add 49 off the last five and 81 off the last nine.
Despite the brave face their skipper has been trying to put on it since the South Africa washout, the West Indians did not really have the self-belief. And when they lost their talisman Gayle in the fifth over, lobbing a Mohammed Shami delivery to Jadhav at mid-on, it knocked whatever stuffing was left out of them.
When Hope, around whom so many recent innings and partnerships have been built, also fell to Shami two overs later, only the most optimistic supporter did not see the writing on the wall.
The first powerplay yielded 29 for the loss of two wickets, the tournament’s worst performance thus far. Then Pandya claimed Nicholas Pooran—with, not for the first time, a lot of help from Pooran—and Yuzvendra Chahal accounted for Holder before the 25th over had been completed or the 100 mark reached.
Kohli, asking for no quarter and giving none, recalled Bumrah and Shami. Roach and Cottrell enjoyed themselves towards the end, taking the score from 112 after Hetmyer, who had hung around for a while, fell to Shami.
But the result was never in doubt. The strike bowlers each claimed two more wickets, Bumrah with successive balls, to end with figures of 6-1-9-2 and 8.2-0-16-4 respectively and clean up the WI tail.
Holder told the post-match interviewer that he thought the team had “let ourselves down significantly. (..) We’ve got to finish well.”
There are many West Indies supporters who are likely to agree with that.
“We’ve done a fair job,” he ended.
The skipper is unlikely, however, to get too much agreement with that.