ODI: Hetmyer’s masterclass, Hope’s grind give West Indies series lead

SUMMARY: West Indies 291 for 2 (Hetmyer 139, Hope 102*) beat India 287 for 8 (Pant 71, Iyer 70, Jadhav 40, Paul 2-40, Joseph 2-45, Cottrell 2-46) by 8 wickets

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Shimron Hetmyer played one of the great innings in a chase against India in India to rattle the hosts, who had assumed West Indies had made a mistake asking them to bat first. It was a bittersweet day for India as Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant rescued them from an early wobble, showing signs of a stable middle order beginning to form.

However, India’s lack of penetration – Ravindra Jadeja was their fourth specialist bowler – in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah was exposed brutally by Hetmyer, who hit 11 fours and seven sixes in his 106-ball 139. At the other end, Shai Hope walked the tightrope between the kind of innings that binds a chase and one so slow that it puts undue pressure on the other batsmen. He came out unbeaten on 102 off 151, emphatically stating which side of the rope he was on.

The two sides read the conditions completely differently. India were happy to bat first on a “dry” surface that Virat Kohli felt would be broken up by spikes. India’s approach, though, remained confounding as they played debutant Shivam Dube and Kedar Jadhav as their fifth bowler. They ended up conceding the highest successful chase at Chepauk. It would appear the pitch kept getting quicker as it dried from the extra moisture left to keep the pitch together.

Sheldon Cottrell caused serious damage while the moisture kept the pitch slow. This was the first time since the World Cup semi-final exit that none of India’s top three scored a half-century. Two of them went down to Cottrell who kept bowling cutters with the new ball. Both KL Rahul and Kohli fell in his fourth over, Rahul getting a leading edge and Kohli uncharacteristically falling into the trap of a free single to third man and playing on. India 25 for 2.

Shimron Hetmyer of West Indies celebrates his hundred runs during the 1st One Day International match (ODI) between India and the West Indies held at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai on the 15th December 2019. (Photo by Arjun Singh / Sportzpics for BCCI)

After Cottrell’s first spell of 5-3-12-2, some of the pressure was released by the erroneous Hayden Walsh. That is why Rohit Sharma will be more disappointed that he fell to the slowness of the surface after getting himself in for a 56-ball 36.

Unlike the World Cup semi-final, India had cause for optimism in the way Iyer and Pant rebuilt the innings from 80 for 3 without going into their shells for too long. Pant in particular played a seemingly restrained innings but still finished with a strike rate of over 100. Tortured by taunting calls of “Dhoni, Dhoni” all over India, Pant now had Dhoni’s “home” crowd of Chennai chanting “Ree-shabh Pant, Ree-shabh Pant”.

It was Pant’s urgency after a start of six off 16 that allowed Iyer to go about his business. Neither of them took any outrageous risk as they stepped up the run rate. They added 114 at better than a run a ball after scoring just 12 off the first 33 balls they faced. Pant was 27 when Iyer got to 45; the two got to their half-centuries in successive overs. As they looked to kick into the next gear, both fell to aerial shots, underlining some of the trickiness remained.

Shai Hope of West Indies plays a shot during the 1st One Day International match (ODI) between India and the West Indies held at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai on the 15th December 2019. (Photo by Arjun Singh / Sportzpics for BCCI)

West Indies bowled smartly into the surface towards the end of the innings, conceding just 71 off the last 10 overs despite the returning Jadhav scoring 40 off 35.

India’s last bit of joy on the night came through the early dismissal of Sunil Ambris. This pitch had quickened up noticeably, and Hetmeyer batted with scant respect for a limited attack. After the first two boundaries off the edge, the rest was mostly clean and sensational hitting.

Once the new-ball bowlers had bowled their four-over spells, Hetmyer began to prey on the toothlesness of India’s attack. He hit boundaries in each of Dube’s first two overs, which went for a combined 15, and then hit Jadhav out of the attack with two fours in what turned out to be his only over. Now he went to put Kuldeep Yadav under pressure, unfurling the slog sweep.

Against Jadeja he sat back and waited for the eventual drag-down, and hit them for successvie sixes in the 22nd over. It was particularly frustrating for spinners to bowl to Hetmyer because he used the crease expertly to late-cut even good-length deliveries. The ball to drag him onto the front foot had to be half-volleys, which he easily scored off.

India needed wickets, but all they could turn to was Dube and Jadeja. This went against India’s philosophy of the last two years when they packed their attack with bowlers who could take wickets in the middle overs. They had done the same in the deciding T20I earlier in the week, but now they were forced to go back to Shami. And Hetmyer was disdainful of him, hitting him for a four and a ferociously pulled six.

West Indies were now 149 for 1 after 26 overs, Hetmyer was 90 off 70, and the chase looked all but done. India received a lucky break when Hetmyer came down with painful cramps in the next over. Eight overs went by with no boundaries.

While the asking rate still remained under six for the last 16 overs, there might have been that itch for release. Amid that, Chahar, the only bowler to have gone at under a run a ball against Hetmyer, produced a mistimed pull, but Iyer dropped it at long-on.

That proved to be India’s last chance as Hetmyer went on another assault, picking apart Jadeja with successive sixes and Dube with a six and a four off successive balls. After Hetmyer fell, leaving West Indies 59 to get off 68 balls, Hope made sure there were no hiccups. He knew he would have at least four overs from Dube or Jadhav to feast upon, which meant Kuldeep’s last two overs for four runs failed to preoduce any pressure. (ESPNCricinfo)

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