The pain of a World Cup lost due to a few moments of madness will not subside quickly but this victory—in the first T20 against West Indies at Lauderhill on Saturday—rather India’s emphatic bowling, should give the team plenty of positives. The batting however will not allow India to rest easy.
In their first outing after losing to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals at Manchester, India came out gunning for West Indies with a six-bowler strategy that started punching holes in the batting from the first over. Found out on several fronts, ranging from shot selection to their approach to the innings, West Indies collapsed but still somehow held out for their entire quota of overs, crawling to 95. Instead of cantering to a comprehensive win, India huffed and puffed to the target—losing six wickets in the process—to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Navdeep Saini, after a prolonged stint as India’s chief nets bowler, finally got the speed guns working in a memorable debut where he finished with the scalps of Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard and Shimron Hetmyer. Spinner Washington Sundar took just two balls to remove West Indies opener John Campbell. Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed bowled with stifling accuracy and craftiness. Nothing seemed out of place about this young bowling attack. And by the looks of it, this new India promises plenty of flair and fire.
West Indies however fell flat, not living up to the tag of World Cup champions. Campbell’s dismissal—trying to muscle Sundar but not clearing Krunal Pandya at deep midwicket—was an early sign of things to come. The innings was two deliveries old then. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s knuckle ball was probably too good for Evin Lewis in the next over but the shot was hara-kiri. Shimron Hetmyer then played on a Saini delivery that sprang off the pitch. Trying to stay on top of it, Hetmyer jumped but the ball hit the face of his bat to ricochet into the stumps. Having already lost three wickets by then—Pooran top-edging Saini to Pant—the last thing West Indies would have wanted was another blow.
But there is also this saying that West Indies’ real batting doesn’t start till they are two or three wickets down. This time, Keiron Pollard and Carlos Brathwaite came together at the fall of the fifth wicket in the form of Rovman Powell, done in by a slower delivery from Ahmed. Those who thought things could look up finally however were in for a rude jolt when Brathwaite mistimed a pull and hit the ball straight back to Pandya. Like he always does, Pollard came to the rescue with four sixes in a 49-ball 49 but by rushing through their overs in the middle, Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja didn’t allow him the time to take stock of the damage.
That playing across the line rarely pays was again clear from the highlights reel of the West Indies innings. Shikhar Dhawan however still went with a needless hoick, missed and was trapped on the back leg by Sheldon Cottrell. Rohit Sharma was his usual self, pulling Oshane Thomas for six before laying into Cottrell for a preposterous lofted drive that resulted in another six. Sunil Narine however provided some intrigue when he dismissed Sharma and Rishabh Pant off successive deliveries. Sharma holed out to Pollard at long-on, but Pant surprised by going for a sweep first ball, finding Cottrell at deep square-leg. Alarm bells were still not sounded when Manish Pandey went for flourish against Keemo Paul, only to york himself. Kohli’s departure—top-edging Cottrell to Pollard at midwicket—and Pandya’s feeble push at Paul’s incoming delivery started to make the scenario interesting. But Sundar’s swatted six over long-on allowed fans as well as the team to breathe a collective sigh of relief.