India never lose a home run-chase when Virat Kohli scores a hundred is an expired gospel now. Set 284, thanks to an inspired Windies batting showdown against the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, even Kohli’s 38th ODI century couldn’t offset a middle-order meltdown India’s camouflaged so efficiently in recent times.
Windies’s win over India by 43 runs at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune on Saturday (October 27) means that the series, where India were expected to ride roughshod over Windies, now stands level at 1-1.
India’s loss is outrageous not because it transpired at home and/or came against Windies, the ninth-ranked ODI side in the world; what bites is India falling short despite a hundred from Kohli, and after their two first-choice pace bowlers in Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar, and their two first-choice spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal had restricted Windies to 284 – a total that certainly looked below par, given India opted to chase, ruling out an up-and-down pitch in favour of dew. And terminally so, in hindsight.
Spoilt by how their top-three bail them out ten out of ten times, India found themselves on foreign shores after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were dismissed even before India had clocked hundred on the board. While Jason Holder got rid of Rohit with a peach of a delivery in the second over of the chase, Dhawan’s plight was largely self-inflicted. Ashley Nurse accounted for the left-hander for the third time in ODIs – the most a spinner has gotten him in this format – pinning him in front after he failed to execute a sweep shot in the 18th over of the chase, leaving India two down for 88 runs.
Ambati Rayudu, India’s now designated No. 4 batsman, put on a 47-run stand for the third wicket with Kohli, but his dismissal to left-armer Obed McCoy’s queer angle pointed to a welcome middle-order workout for India. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar slotted at No. 7 in the absence of Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav, it had to be Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni taking India through. Both failed, one to the young rush of dopamine and the other to the readmission that this is no Dhoni of the good ol’ days.
India went on to lose their last seven wickets for 68 runs – a collapse which sandwiched Kohli’s dismissal in Marlon Samuels’s first over. What was a ploy to sneak in a few overs turned out to be the game’s inflection point.
Ashley Nurse, with the wickets of Dhawan and Pant, was the one who actually hauled Windies up to 283, after they looked set to shut shop for much less. A 22-ball 40 batting at No. 9 didn’t just ensure a fighting total for Windies but also a poor comeback for Bhuvneshwar, who returned figures of 1 for 70 in stark contrast to Bumrah’s swashbuckling 4 for 35.
In a necessary validation of Bumrah’s indispensability, India had tackled Windies to 283 for 9, after conceding a 300-plus score in each of the first two ODIs of the series. Shai Hope top-scored with 95, impinged just short of successive hundreds in the series by a searing yorker from Bumrah, but the rest of the batsmen couldn’t collectively bring themselves to score against a revamped Indian bowling attack, that also featured a fit-again Bhuvneshwar and an auditioning Khaleel Ahmed.
Kohli, at the toss, stressed on how bringing back Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah for the last three ODIs was always part of the plan, but a hint of rationality suggests how Windies have clamoured for a better bowling attack more than India opting for it. And didn’t the Windies show why!
Bumrah had Windies on tenterhooks on his comeback, striking twice in his four-over opening burst to account for both the openers, Kieran Powell and Chandrapaul Hemraj. Khaleel, who’s India’s latest attempt at diversity in a right-arm-only pace attack, conceded 17 runs in his first two overs, largely undoing Bhuvneshwar’s stingy opening spell of 4-0-16-0, but came back well to account for Samuels’s wicket.
India had a hot and cold day on the field, with Rohit pulling off a couple of superb catches at first slip in addition to Dhoni’s stumping and catching behind the stumps, but they let go of far too many overthrows, which sustained Windies even when the runs where hard to come by.
Windies’s batting revolved around two stunning phases of play. First was when Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope got together in a 56-run fourth-wicket stand to run the Indian spinners ragged, spanking Yuzvendra and Kuldeep for four sixes and two boundaries in the 6.1 overs that followed Samuels’s dismissal. The other batting spike arrived when Jason Holder got together with Hope in the middle, and the two put up 76 runs for the sixth wicket. India almost had the game when Holder fell to Bumrah, but Nurse’s assault of four boundaries and a couple of sixes caught them off-guard, and lugged Windies to a match-winning total.
There was nothing predictable about this run-chase, if that’s where you stood after the first innings. Windies were supposed to be no match for India – and more so for this Indian side – but they not just beat India but also laid bare the mortality of Virat Kohli. India cannot win the World Cup without a middle-order, even with Kohli in the middle of an unreal streak of form, and if this wasn’t a red flag, nothing ever will be.
Brief Scores: Windies 283/9 in 50 overs (Hope 95, Nurse 40; Bumrah 4-35) beat India 240 in 47.4 overs (Kohli 107; Samuels 3-12, Nurse 2-43) by 43 runs.