ODI: Another Kohli ton, another India victory

SUMMARY: 35-over match: India 256-4 (Kohli 114*, Iyer 65, Allen 2-40) beat West Indies 240-7 (Gayle 72, Lewis 43, Khaleel 3-68, Shami 2-50) by six wickets


West Indies needed a win to share the three-match series 1-1. Their single biggest opportunity to take a step towards victory came in the sixth over of the second innings, when Virat Kohli, only on 11, inside-edged a flick to Shai Hope, only for the wicketkeeper to drop the catch.

Virat Kohli of India hits a four during the third ODI match between West Indies and India at Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on August 14, 2019. (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP)

Had the catch off Keemo Paul been taken, India would have been 45-2 – chasing a revised target of 255 in 35 overs in a rain-affected match – with both Rohit Sharma and Kohli back in the pavilion. Instead, Kohli settled in and presented West Indies no further chances. Eventually, India cruised to a six-wicket win, clinching the series 2-0 with 15 balls to spare.

By no means was it all about Kohli. Shreyas Iyer, for the second game in a row, scored a half-century from No. 5, and helped put India back on track after they had lost Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant in the same over to slip to 92-3. India needed 164 from 134 balls at that stage, and Iyer put on 120 off just 94 balls with Kohli to ensure India were always in touch with the required rate.

Just as he had done in the second ODI, Iyer was fluent from the start, and the shots he played took the pressure off Kohli. Once he settled, Iyer broke free with successive sixes off Allen, and followed up with another off Roston Chase in the next over. From the other end, Kohli mauled Jason Holder for consecutive fours and punished Paul with an inside-out drive through the covers.

Iyer reached his half-century off just 33 balls, before holing out to long-off while looking for another six in the 29th over. By then, his 41-ball 65 and his partnership with Kohli had brought the equation down to only 43 runs off 40 deliveries.

Grounds keepers pull tarps to cover the pitch of the Queen’s Park Oval as rain stop the match during the third One-Day International cricket match between the West Indies and India in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

Kohli was flawless after the dropped chance. After the fall of Dhawan and Pant, he let Iyer hog the limelight for a while, taking the back seat and cruising towards his half-century. But once he got there, he began dismantling the opposition attack.

When Iyer fell in the 29th over, Kohli was already on 89, and he soon reached his 43rd ODI hundred in the 31st over with a flick to deep midwicket. In the same over, he became the first man to score 20,000 international runs in a decade. When Kohli raised his bat, India needed just 18 off four overs, and he and Kedar Jadhav didn’t take too much longer to bring the curtains down on a rain-hit ODI series.

After opting to bat first, West Indies rode on a 115-run stand between openers Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis to finish on 240-7 in their 35 overs. West Indies could have made even more, given that they had rattled along at more than 11 an over in the first third of their innings, but wickets and rain delays slowed them down.

Before this game, Gayle had scored 11 runs in 55 balls in this ODI series. But he showed very early that his tempo would be very different in this series finale.

The number 301 – his ODI count – had replaced the famous 45 on the back of his jersey, and murmurs began that this could be Gayle’s final ODI. While there was no confirmation of this, Gayle batted as if this were a celebration of his career, smacking eight fours and five sixes in a 41-ball innings, scoring 86% of his runs in boundaries, and ending up with a strike rate north of 175.

Chris Gayle of West Indies waves to fans while walking off the field during the third ODI match between West Indies and India at Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on August 14, 2019. (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP)

Either side of a 15-minute rain break, Mohammed Shami faced the brunt of Gayle’s hitting. Length balls were swatted over the bowler’s head or through midwicket, and fuller balls lifted over cover. After the end of a 20-run sixth over, West Indies were already at 49.

It wasn’t just Gayle who was finding the sweet spot, as Lewis looted runs off the other two seamers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed. Lewis was quick to spot Bhuvneshwar’s change-ups in the fifth and seventh overs, and both times swatted the ball into the second tier. One hit a pillar so hard that it ricocheted back onto the ground. After nine overs, West Indies were 97 for no loss. This after they had begun with a maiden.

Gayle reached his half-century in the tenth over, acknowledged by a sparse Port-of-Spain crowd that had been awoken by the kind of batting that West Indies had been missing through this series. Clearing his front leg, Gayle hammered a full delivery from Khaleel over midwicket to bring up his 54th ODI half-century, and followed it up with an audacious one-handed six next ball over long leg. Four came off the next ball, over mid-off, and West Indies ended the 10th over at 114-0.

With the first Powerplay done Virat Kohli brought on Yuzvendra Chahal, and he struck immediately, with Lewis top-edging a slog to long-on. It was another ‘what-if’ innings from Lewis, to follow up his 65* and 40 in the first two matches.

The dismissal did not seem to slow Gayle down, as he smacked Khaleel for another four in the next over, past point, but he fell next ball, making room to hit Khaleel down the ground, but failing to find the elevation, and finding a diving Kohli at mid-off. Gayle left to hand-shakes from the India fielders and a jig with Kohli.

Assisted by an outfield that had slowed down thanks to the rain, India managed to plug the flow of boundaries. And when Jadhav completed the game’s 22nd over, the rain returned, sending the teams off the field for another three hours.

When the teams returned at 2.35pm local time, West Indies suddenly had only 13 overs left, with eight wickets in hand. Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope fell trying to up the run rate, the former foxed by a slower ball from Shami and the latter bowled trying to cut Ravindra Jadeja off the stumps.

Nicholas Pooran pulled Chahal in the 29th over to infuse life into the crowd, and slog-sweept Jadeja twice over cow corner, before falling for 30 off 16 balls, chipping Shami to long-on. West Indies then took 15 off the last over, bowled by Khaleel, and went into the break with momentum behind them. Kohli and Iyer, however, ensured they couldn’t convert it into anything more substantial. (ESPNCricinfo)

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