Pooran hits half-century in vain as India hand West Indies 6-wkt defeat in opening T20I

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Many hands, they say, make light work. India needed only six pairs of hands to chase down Kieron Pollard’s West Indies’ modest target of 157, getting to 162 with six wickets and seven balls in hand in the First T20 in Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday.

After West Indies vice-captain Nicholas Pooran registered his sixth T20I half-century in his 48th innings to give his bowlers something to work with, India skipper Rohit Sharma first took matters into his own hands.

Photo: West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran in a trademark heave over midwicket for six.
(Copyright BCCI)

And then, when it looked as though India might have more than a little trouble making a fist of their target, the middle order were on hand to steady the ship and take them home.

Rohit focused his post-match attention on the fact that the needs of the team come first and that all his players understand that, including Shreyas Iyer who had been omitted.

Pollard, too, lamented that his team had not got what it needed.

“Between overs 6 to 15, we scored too few runs,” he said. “We were 15-20 runs short. […] It’s a matter of setting it up properly.”

Indeed, it was a day when the Maroon Men almost did deliver a score that might stretch the opposition. Had Pooran been able to begin his acceleration a couple overs earlier and Odean Smith and Pollard managed to use their power to maximum effect at the end of the innings, who knows what the additional scoreboard pressure might have done to the home team’s middle and lower-order?

Photo: West Indies allrounder Odean Smith uses the long handle in T20I action against India.
(Copyright BCCI)

Of course, the bowlers would still have needed to restrain Rohit much more in the early going. The Indian captain seemed to have decided that his eye was in after Sheldon Cottrell’s opening over, which went for only three runs. The next four powerplay overs went for 8, 11, 22 and 13 and by the last over of the powerplay Pollard had already called up his fifth bowler.

But like a restless child, Rohit refused to be kept quiet. Despite the best efforts of the spin pair of Roston Chase and Akeal Hosein, his 40 came off only 19 balls and contained three sixes and four fours, Smith being clobbered Smith for 22 in his first over and subsequently withdrawn from the attack until #14.

The West Indies skipper kept his three spinners in the firing line from over #5 to over #13. By then, Chase had already induced a false shot from the Indian skipper-in-a-hurry, who saw Smith snaffle the chance on the midwicket boundary.

And Fabian Allen had first caught 2022 IPL mega auction top money spinner Ishan Kishan to give Chase his second wicket and then had Pollard hole out to Virat Kohli at long-off to leave India on 95 for 3 with seven overs left.

Photo: India captain Rohit Sharma (right) and Ishan Kishan  mark the occasion with a fist bump and a low five.
(Copyright BCCI)

Dangerous finisher Rishabh Pant could make no impression on the day, helping a short ball from Cottrell into Smith’s hands at short fine-leg at 114 for 3.

But when it looked as though WI might have a sniff, Suryakumar Yadav (34* off 18, 5 x4, 1 x 6) and Venkatesh Iyer (24* off 13, 2 x 4, 1 x 6) shut the door on them, taking 13 off Cottrell’s last over and 17 off Allen’s second, #19.

Earlier, inserted by India, the WI lost Brandon King in the first over. To everyone’s surprise, it was the left-handed Pooran who joined surviving opener Kyle Mayers.

Surprising it might have been but you had to hand it to Pollard; he clearly knew what he was doing. The left-handed pair moved the score rapidly from 4 for 1 to 51 for 2 with Mayers contributing a handy 31 in the 47-run partnership—including seven sweetly struck boundaries!

And more surprises were in store as Chase (4 off 2) preceded Rovman Powell (2 off 3) after ball tracking nixed the opener’s review of Yuzvendra Chahal’s lbw appeal against him. But neither stuck around long enough to play a big hand, Rohit never letting the batsmen get a good look at any of his bowlers.

Photo: India leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal gives an appeal his all.
(Copyright AP)

Pooran, though, made merry in the meantime, smacking four boundaries and five sixes in his more-than-a-run-a-ball 61. Eventual Man-of-the-Match Ravi Bishnoi actually caught him at long-on off Chahal when he was on just 8. But the 21-year-old debutant inadvertently stepped on the boundary cushion, giving the 26-year-old his second six.

Still, 51 for 2 in over #7 had not yet been doubled in over #14 when Deepak Chahar caught Hosein near the square-leg umpire off his own bowling.

The left-handed would-be allrounder, who had almost single-handedly brought the West Indies to within a couple of runs of a spectacular Game Four win over England last month, had been handed a surprise promotion and come in ahead of skipper Pollard.

But from 95 for 5, captain and vice-captain opened their hands to reach 135 by the end of the 18th, Pollard essentially content to play second fiddle and give his deputy his head.

For his part, Rohit continued to ring in the changes. At one end, Chahar bowled overs #2 and #4 but no one else would bowl consecutive overs until Harshal Patel bowled the last two.

Photo: India spinner Ravi Bishnoi had a memorable T20I debut against the West Indies on 16 February 2022, earning himself a Man-of-the-Match award.
(Copyright BCCI)

And it was a relative triumph for Patel to concede only ten runs in #18 and send Pooran on his way as he tried unsuccessfully to clear Kohli at long-off.

And then, in #20, to see his skipper sprint around from mid-on to pouch the catch offered to him by the dangerous power-hitter Smith (4 off 4).

Pollard remained unbeaten on 24 while Patel and Bishnoi claimed two scalps each, Chahal, Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar taking one apiece.

(Match Summary)

Toss: India

West Indies: 157 for 7 (20 overs) (Nicholas Pooran 61, Kyle Mayers 31, Kieron Pollard 24*; Ravi Bishnoi, 2/17, Harshal Patel 2/37)

India: 162 for 4 (18.5 overs) (Rohit Sharma 40, Inshan Kishan 35, Suryakumar Yadav 34*, Venkatesh Iyer 24*; Roston Chase 2/14)

Man-of-the-Match: Ravi Bishnoi

Result: India win by 6 wkts

India lead three-match series 1-0

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About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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