Jodhpur: For a change, willow smacking leather wasn’t the highlight of the day, as India beat the West Indies by three wickets in the penultimate match of the one-day series Thursday to square things at 3-3 ahead of Sunday’s final game in Vijayawada.
Stand-in captain Rahul Dravid won the toss and promptly elected to field, as has been the trend of this high-scoring series. But in a departure from the sequence of slam-bang batting, the Indian seamers succeeded in keeping things quiet.
The visitors could post just a meagre 42 for two in the first 15 overs. Murali Kartik and Sanjay Bangar also kept things quiet in the middle overs, and it was only when Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were at the crease, there was hope of a tally in the region of 230.
However, all hopes disappeared with the dismissals of Hooper and Chanderpaul and the innings folded with 21 deliveries remaining. Ajit Agarkar marked his comeback with a haul of three for 24 and Bangar chipped in with two in his final over to hasten the collapse.
The best bowling performance of the day, though, came from Kartik. Having done a tidy job in the two previous games , the left-armer came up with a career-best three for 36. Bowling a clever length, Kartik hardly allowed any freedom on the frontfoot and made most of the assistance provided by the slowish surface.
Then the Indian chase got off to a poor start and at 54 for three after the 15th over, the West Indies’ chances of wrapping up the series looked good. Dravid, yet again, and Yuvraj Singh steadied the ship with a 99-run stand that came in just under 20 overs.
Dravid posted his second half-century in five innings (apart from the unbeaten 109 in Ahmedabad) and took his series tally to 297. It was his 42nd fifty-plus knock in ODIs. Yuvrajresponded with his eighth half-century.
However, just as it seemed that India would win in a canter, both batsmen fell with the total reading 147. Reetinder Singh Sodhi marred his return to international cricket with an ugly and unsuccessful attempt to hoist Corey Collymore out of the ground.
Bangar maintained his impressive run with the bat and ensured there was no panic during two useful stands with Mohammed Kaif and Agarkar. Bangar, alongside Kartik, was also a contender for the MoM award, but Match Referee Mike Procter picked Agarkar.
Concentrating on a wicket-to-wicket line, Agarkar looked determined to keep things in check. Jawagal Srinath was probably more aggressive from the other end.But Agarkar struck first.
Wavell Hinds took 25 balls to get off the mark and perished three balls later as he went for an ambitious shot over mid-wicket. Chris Gaylewas just about looking good when Kartik got rid of him.
Kartik quickly removed Marlon Samuels with one that came back with the arm to force the West Indians into the defensive. The runs dried up as the Caribbeans reached 58 for three after 20 overs.
Kartik soon got rid of Ramnaresh Sarwan to reduce the visitors to 74 for four, but India started feeling the absence of a fifth bowler at this stage. With Sodhi surprisingly kept out of the attack, the responsibility fell on Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Mongia and the two went for 65 from the nine overs they put in.
Ricardo Powell contributed a busy 29 before being adjudged leg-before in what looked like a bad decision. As Hooper and Chanderpaul accelerated the scoring, Agarkar and Bangar dismissed the two to seize back the initiative.
n Scorecard on Page 24