It was a pitch that was far from perfect for the batsmen. India had been playing on pristine batting tracks in England before they ended up in the Caribbean. In Antigua, they were facing a pitch that left their batsmen with all to do, and their experience shone through.
Faced with a rare top-order failure, MS Dhoni split his knock into two contrasting halves – cautious at the start and with a trademark finish at the end, while Ajinkya Rahane dropped anchor with another fifty-plus score to give India a solid total to defend. In reply to India’s 251 for 4, West Indies’ batting crumbled as they succumbed to a 93-run loss. India’s bowlers revelled on a pitch, that although much more batting friendly than in the first essay, still had something in it for the bowlers. The win meant that India had taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Having lost the toss for the third straight game, an unchanged India were asked to bat first on a pitch which offered the bowlers significant assistance. Miguel Cummins, Kesrick Williams, making his debut, and Jason Holder all extracted great bounce from the wicket to keep the batsmen on their toes. The wicket had been kept under covers for the past two days due to torrential rains, and that ensured there was enough juice in the track for the bowlers.
India’s top order slumped under testing conditions, with Shikhar Dhawan (2), Virat Kohli (11) and Yuvraj Singh (39) combining for a total of 52 runs as India found themselves struggling at 100 for 3 in the 27th over. Rahane, however, held one end up with some cautious batting, while Dhoni started slowly before catching up nicely at the end to give India something solid to defend.
The West Indies bowlers used the short ball to great effect at the start of the innings. Migel Cummins had Dhawan out with such a tactic, the left-hander going for an upper cut that ended in the hands of third man. Holder had his counterpart, Kohli in trouble with a number of bouncers, and after a lucky escape, the Indian captain guided a short ball to gully.
While Rahane struggled to find consistency, Yuvraj Singh was able to shake off the nerves for India with a decent cameo. His 39 came off 55 balls, and included four hits to the fence. He was out LBW to Devendra Bishoo having survived a similar call in the previous over. That wicket brought together Dhoni and Rahane, and saw India put up their best partnership, even if the cricket wasn’t always of the same cadre. India added 70 runs off 96 balls before Rahane fell to another shortish delivery, cutting to a diving Bishoo at fine leg.
Dhoni, who became the second highest run-getter among wicketkeeper batsmen in ODIs, going past Adam Gilchrist’s 9410 runs, endured a torturous start. He struggled to pick runs off the pacers and hogged the strike. He got away with two chances in the same over off Bishoo, and the hosts came to regret that. Once Rahane departed, Dhoni took on the run-scoring mantle and started to unleash his typical strokeplay.
In Kedar Jadhav, he found an equally ambitious partner as India went past 200 runs in the 46th over. Dhoni carted Holder for back-to-back sixes in the next over, and quickly caught up with the number of balls he’d used up initially. That over gave India 17 runs, and a big boost to their total. The pair smashed 51 runs off the last four overs, and 49 in the six before that as the visitors finished with 251 for 6, with Dhoni and Jadhav not out on 78 and 40 respectively.
In reply, India showed their hosts how to bowl on this pitch. Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had some swing on offer, and the former got rid of Evin Lewis in his very first over. The Hopes, Shai and Kyle (who was making his debut), kept West Indies in good stead with a fine stand of 45. Hardik Pandya, however, got India back on top with the twin wickets of the brothers, while Kuldeep Yadav foxed Roston Chase with a googly to leave West Indies in dire straits at 69 for 4.
R Ashwin had Jason Holder stumped soon after, but then West Indies made their boldest statement with the bat. Jason Mohammed and Rovman Powell added 54 runs for the sixth wicket, giving them hopes of a comeback. India’s spinners however combined to nip the fight in the bud.
Kuldeep Yadav ended with superb figures of three for 41, while Ashwin showcased a lot of his variety and guile, taking three for 28, and thus reaching 150 ODI wickets. India sealed the deal soon after, with Jadhav taking a wicket of his first ball.
Brief scores:India 251/4 in 50 overs (MS Dhoni 78*, Ajinkya Rahane 72, Miguel Cummins 2-56) beat Windies 158 in 38.1 overs (Jason Mohammed 40; R Ashwin 3-28, Kuldeep Yadav 3-41) by 93 runs.