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Kohli king in game of chase

India, chasing a 316-run target, won by 4 wickets with 8 balls remaining courtesy Kohli's gritty 85 off 81 balls
India captain Virat Kohli (extreme right) and teammates celebrate after their series win over the West Indies in Cuttack on Sunday
India captain Virat Kohli (extreme right) and teammates celebrate after their series win over the West Indies in Cuttack on Sunday

Sayak Banerjee   |   Cuttack   |   Published 22.12.19, 10:15 PM

Most of the boxes were ticked in the end — captain Virat Kohli was back in the ‘King Kohli’ avatar and India won the match and the series against the West Indies. The year, 2019, thus ended on a winning note for India.

But all that did not come on a platter, Kieron Pollard’s West Indies ensured that Kohli’s India had to fight hard for the win. But then, there were some lapses on the visitors’ part that proved to be too costly.

At the Barabati Stadium on Sunday, India, chasing a 316-run target, won by four wickets with eight balls remaining.

For the record, this was India’s 10th successive bilateral ODI series win versus the Windies. Rohit Sharma (63) and KL Rahul (77) laid the foundation for what really was a tricky run chase. Thereafter, it was mostly Kohli (85 off 81 balls) at work.

When Kohli is on song, the opposition faces a tough time. And if the bowlers fail to challenge him properly, it becomes worse for the rival captain.

That’s what happened on Sunday. Of course, Kohli did churn out quite a few gorgeous, magnificent drives and strokes, but the visitors dished out some mediocre stuff that helped him regain his rhythm after having scored only four runs in the last two ODIs.

The dew too played its role to perfection, making matters tougher for the Windies bowlers and easier for Kohli and his team-mates as the game progressed.

Credit should also go to Ravindra Jadeja (39 not out) for showing wonderful temperament when things could have gone awry for India after they had lost half their side with still 88 needed off 67 balls.

Jadeja’s spontaneity and urgency helped Kohli breathe easy in that period as the sixth-wicket partnership of 58 between the two took India closer to the target.

Keemo Paul getting the better of Kohli after dismissing both Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, who had a torrid time behind the stumps shelling five chances, once again brought the Windies back into the game. But Shardul Thakur (17 not out) too showed no signs of nerves and the very first ball he faced – a poor delivery from Paul – raced to the boundary.

The following over – over No.48 – bowled by Sheldon Cottrell turned the match decisively in India’s favour. Cottrell conceded a six and a four off successive deliveries to Thakur. The game was almost over at that point.

The contributions of Rohit and Rahul at the top were equally vital. After Nicholas Pooran and captain Kieron Pollard helped the Windies to a competitive 315/5, Rohit and Rahul carried on from where they had left off in Visakhapatnam, taking India off to a flier. Their 122-run opening partnership at almost six an over came without hardly any risks. Thanks also to some erratic bowling by the rival bowlers.

Jason Holder then gave the visitors a much-needed breakthrough before Alzarri Joseph dismissed Rahul. But then, Kohli again rose to the occasion when it mattered most while the Windies bowlers, with their inconsistent bowling, kept losing the advantage in spite of creating pressure and taking wickets.

Earlier, after India won the toss for the first time in the series and inserted the opposition, the Windies batsmen showed proper planning and maturity to push the score beyond 300.

Importantly, they got the runs despite a mid-innings hiccup. For that, Pollard (74 not out off 51 balls) deserves the kudos and so does the left-handed Pooran, top-scoring with 89 (off 64 balls) at a highly impressive strike-rate of around 140.

The India bowlers had done a pretty decent job for a good part of the Windies innings. But Pooran’s fearlessness and Pollard’s calculated aggression in their 135-run fifth-wicket stand revived the Windies.

The last 10 overs yielded the Windies a massive 118 runs.

The pitch here, as expected, was batsmen-friendly with firm bounce the only consolation for the bowlers. The likes of Mohammed Shami and debutant Navdeep Saini (coming in place of the injured Deepak Chahar), though, were accurate with their lines and lengths, denying the Windies a flying start.

Evin Lewis and Shai Hope put on 57 for the opening stand but at a run-rate of just about four an over. Te fluency wasn’t there in Lewis’s game and he eventually perished at the deep off Jadeja’s bowling.

Thereafter, instead of Shimron Hetmyer, who’s in an explosive form, Roston Chase was the man to walk in, a move which was surprising to say the least. Let off on nought by Pant, Chase also took time to settle down.

India were in control of the proceedings then with the scoring rate falling well below four. They could have restricted the Windies to around 250 or so, but Pooran and Pollard stood up when the team really needed them to.

They took whatever bit of time they needed to settle down before going hammer and tongs. And they did that effortlessly. The West Indies bowling, however, needs much improvement.

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