India hold off Powell and Pooran to take unassailable lead in T20I series

“We are a six-hitting team,” West Indies white ball vice-captain Nicholas Pooran repeated time and time again in the run-up to the 2021 World Cup.

In the UAE, we saw none of it. But today, needing a Carlos Brathwaite imitation in the second T20I at the same Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Rovman Powell almost bore him out.

Photo: West Indies batsman Rovman Powell on the go against India during the second T20I on 18 February 2022.
(via CWI/ BCCI)

The Jamaican power-hitter thumped a pair of sixes off Harshal Patel’s third and fourth balls to kindle memories—and fears in the Indian camp!—of a famous West Indian win. But needing another pair of sixes to reach the challenging 186 target set by Rohit Sharma’s India, he could manage only a single off ball five.

And so the dream died with WI on 176 for 3, still nine runs short of their target.

The defeat meant that India take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series and Pollard’s men will be playing only for pride in Sunday’s final match. But for the first time since they landed in India, the Maroon Men will feel they have done themselves proud.

Pollard said that he was ‘pleased with the guys’ and that it would be unfair to ‘call the batters out’.

“Powell was phenomenal today,” he said. “His partnership with Pooran almost took us over the line.”

“We are,” he ended, “a work in progress.”

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard tells it like it is.
(via CWI Media)

It was Pooran (62 off 41, 5 x4, 3 x 6) and Powell (68* off 36, 4 x 4, 5 x 6) who put on exactly 100 for the third wicket to allow WI to remain in the hunt until the penultimate ball of the match.

They came together at 59 for 2 after Brandon King holed out to long-on trying perhaps to hit new boy Ravi Bishnoi out of the attack before he settled down.

Neither Bishnoi nor his spin partner Yuzvendra Chahal unduly troubled the left hand-right hand combination although it was the leg-spinner who caught King’s opening partner Kyle Mayers off his own bowling.

And the two P’s contrived to keep the required rate manageable all the way from over number nine when King went to over #18 just before Pooran went.

That over proved to be a problem! In it, Powell powered to his 50 off just 28 balls immediately after Pooran had got his off 34 in the previous over. Having taken 12, 12, 10, 11, 11, 16 off overs 12 to 17, the duo found themselves needing 37 off the last 18 balls.

Photo: West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran executes his trademark heave over the midwicket fence.
(Copyright BCCI)

And with the firepower left in the pavilion—including a third P, Pollard, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith and a fit-again Jason Holder!—the pair knew that this was doable.

Powell, they knew, had become one of only three WI batsmen to score a T20I century as recently as in the third ODI against England in January.

But nobody told Harshal Patel. He allowed the up-to-then rampant pair only four singles and, off the last ball of the over, a four.

So with the equation reading 29 from 12 and scoreboard pressure huge, Bhuvneshwar Kumar forced Pooran to top-edge an attempted swoosh to extra-cover.

And, more importantly, the over yielded a miserly four runs.

Photo: India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar sends down another hard-to-score-off delivery.
(via Sportskeeda)

Then, with 25 needed off the last six and then the maximum 12 off two. Patel returned to find the right deliveries right at the end.

The Indian captain thought that Kumar rather than Patel deserved to have the spotlight on him

“It was very critical at that point when Bhuvneshwar bowled,” said Sharma. “That’s where experience comes into play. Bhuvi has been doing it for many years and we believe in him a lot.”

And he reserved a positive word for his batsmen:

“The way Virat [Kohli] started he took the pressure off me as well. It was a very important innings. And great finish by Rishabh (Pant) and Venky Iyer.”

Opting to give India first strike, Pollard would have felt satisfied with his decision at the halfway stage with India were 76 for 3. Akeal Hosein conceded 30 off his four overs and Roston Chase just 13 off his first three.

Photo: India batting star and former captain Virat Kohli rolls the wrists to easily beat the leg-side feild.

But Man-of-the-Match Pant (52* off 28, 7 x 4, 1 x 6) upped the tempo after that. First, he combined briefly with Kohli, who, ominously, found something resembling fluency in getting to 52 off 41 balls. Then, when Chase bowled the former captain through the gate at 106 for 4, Pant found another useful partner in Venkatesh Iyer (33 off 18, 4 x 4, 1 x 6).

The pair moved the score along at a merry clip. Together they added 76, not one over between numbers 13 and 19—delivered by five different bowlers—yielding under 10 runs.

Before that, Sheldon Cottrell claimed Inshan Kishan early and Rohit (19 off 18, 2 x 4, 1 x 6) couldn’t add to his run of seven consecutive over-30 scores in T20Is, falling to Chase at 59 for 2.

Chase claimed Suryakumar Yadav as well to leave India at 73 for 3 after ten. And to earn himself flattering figures of 4-0-25-3.

Interestingly, there were 45 dot balls in the India innings, which contained 21 four and four sixes; in the West Indies innings, there were only 36 dot balls, 12 fours and eight sixes.

Photo: India wicketkeeper/batsman Pant goes down on one knee to pierce the field and find the point boundary.

Two more sixes at the right time and the story would have been entirely different.

(Match Summary)

Toss: West Indies

India: 186 for 5 (20 overs) (Rishabh Pant 52*, Virat Kohli 52, Venkatesh Iyer 33; Roston Chase 3/25)

West Indies: 178 for 3 (20 overs) (Rovman Powell 68*, Nicholas Pooran 62, Brandon King 22; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 1/29, Ravi Bishnoi 1/30, Yuzvendra Chahal 1/31)

Man-of-the-Match: Rishabh Pant

Result: India win by 8 runs

India lead the three-match series 2-0

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