Centuries from Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope ensured India crashed to an eight-wicket defeat at the hands of West Indies in the first ODI at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday. India suffered a rare top-order collapse but a fine partnership between Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant ensured a more than competitive total for the hosts. However, Hetmyer and Hope upstaged the Indian duo with a fine partnership of their own as the visitors took a 1-0 lead in three-match series.
Chasing a target of 288, Windies got off the worst start possible as Deepak Chahar got rid of Sunil Ambris in the fifth over. But from there on, the sensational partnership between Hetmyer and Hope came to the fore as the Windies duo played almost flawless cricket during the chase.
Hetmyer played the role of aggressor as he bludgeoned boundaries at will while Hope was content with just stroking around the ball for singles and doubles. Hetmyer smashed a sensational century and his 139-run innings included 11 boundaries and seven massive sixes. He single-handedly took the game away from the hosts, who were also guilty of dropping his catch once.
Hetmyer eventually fell to Mohammed Shami but he had done his job by then as Hope and Pooran took the visitors closer to the target. Hope also completed his well-deserved century as remained unbeaten on 102 as Windies got home with 17 balls to spare.
Earlier, Rishabh Pant showed the temperament needed to succeed in international white ball cricket by scoring his first half-century in One-day Internationals. Sunday's innings of 71 couldn't have come at a more opportune time, in terms of Pant's career and in the context of where India were headed after Sheldon Cottrell had scalped two wickets—including that of Virat Kohli—in the innings' seventh over.
By the 19th over, Rohit Sharma too had gone, all Indian wickets falling to lack of pace from West Indies fast bowlers. Alzarri Joseph had just finished a wicket maiden, and for all the surprise Kohli had shown at the toss, Kieron Pollard's decision to field first looked right.
Pant and Shreyas Iyer knuckled down on a surface that looked sticky from the first ball which Sharma had shaped to pull Jason Holder and ended up playing early. At 80/3 and run machines Sharma and Kohli gone, the innings needed rebuilding in the face of disciplined bowling and some smart field placements from Pollard, which meant India had to graft for runs.
That Iyer would glue the innings was not surprising—he got to his third successive ODI half-century, all against West Indies. Batting at No. 4—the slot that has been a spot of bother for India and having come in at the end of the seventh over—Iyer played along the ground, ran well between wickets and eschewed risk.
There was a phase in the India innings—between 14.4 and 23.5 overs—when they didn't hit a boundary. Both came from Iyer and off-spinners—the first an attempted steer off Hayden Walsh Jr that flew through the vacant slip region and the next a cut off Roston Chase. Iyer didn't hit a ball in the air till his first six, off Chase, and it came off the 76th ball he faced. Soon after, Cottrell strayed down the leg and Iyer whipped him for four.
It was again the lack of pace that fetched West Indies Iyer's wicket but by then he and Pant had added 114 in 113 balls for the fourth wicket. After Iyer had broken the boundary drought, Pant flicked Joseph for four. Next over, he pulled Chase from outside off-stump, and after 10 overs of having reined in his natural game and impetuosity, Pant was changing gears. The innings' first six came in the 28th over, Pant slog-sweeping Chase when the off-spinner dared him with flight.
There was the odd streaky shot—an attempted on-drive drive off Holder ended at third man and he was dropped on 56 by Cottrell at extra-cover, off Pollard. But till he fell to Pollard's bait of rolling his fingers and bowling outside off-stump and holed out to deep backward square-leg, Pant had showed discipline the situation demanded. And yet after scoring six off his first 16 balls, Pant's runs came at almost run-a-ball with seven fours and a six.
Discipline was what Cottrell too produced in spades. Known for pace from islands that produce fast bowlers with regularity, Cottrell realised from his first delivery from the Wallajah Road End that he would need different tools to make an impact here. India's batsmen may have found the adjustment from the last T20I strip difficult but not the big left-arm bowler with military training. Cottrell got KL Rahul with one that stopped on the batsman and had Kohli playing on to another slower delivery while attempting a steer in the same over because the slip had been removed. It took 16 balls for India to take their first run off the 30-year-old Jamaican whose first spell read 5-3-13-2.
Holder wasn't as consistent but that India were 33/2 after 10 overs was proof of how difficult scoring was. The spinners, Chase and Hayden Walsh Jr, though leaked runs on a track they shouldn't have and Keemo Paul struggled for rhythm. Eleven wides too blotted the bowling effort.
After Iyer and Pant fell within 16 runs of each other—from 194/4 it was 210/5— Kedar Jadhav (40 - 35b, 3x4, 1x6) and Ravindra Jadeja ensured West Indies didn't end as well as they had begun, with a 59-run stand in 47 balls. From 137/3 after 30 overs, India ended on 287/8. More importantly, the middle-order where Shivam Dube made his debut, had delivered, and on a difficult track, India had posted a fighting score batting first.