India 308 for 7 (Dhawan 97, Gill 64, Iyer 54, Motie 2-54, Joseph 2-61) beat West Indies 305 for 6 (Mayers 75, King 54, Thakur 2-54, Siraj 2-56) by three runs
History was West Indies’ for the taking. A record 309 was in sight – the highest successful ODI chase at the Queen’s Park Oval was 272. The platform was set with a quick 117-run second-wicket partnership. Two set batters were in the middle with them needing 120 off the last 15 overs with seven wickets in the hutch. Gettable in the T20 era, eh?
Mohammed Siraj first bagged Nicholas Pooran to end his 51-run partnership with Brandon King before Yuzvendra Chahal got the better of Rovman Powell. But two quick fifty-run partnerships – first between King and Akeal Hosein and then between Hosein and Romario Shepherd – raised West Indies’ hopes. However, Chahal had King holing out to sweeper cover before Siraj and Prasidh Krishna defended 38 off the last three overs – weathering the final onslaught from Hosein and Shepherd – to help India start the first of three ODIs in Port of Spain with a three-run win on Friday.
This was after fifties from Shikhar Dhawan, his opening partner Shubman Gill and No. 3 Shreyas Iyer helped India to 308. They were on course to a score around 350, thanks to the 119-run opening stand, but West Indies clawed back by varying their lengths and pace to restrict India.
Having only managed 83 for 5 in the last 15 overs of their innings, India’s bowlers walked out to defend their total with a mindset of changing their lengths, which is how Siraj prised Shai Hope out. Siraj drew him forward with four pitched-up deliveries before catching him off-guard with a bumper that had Hope top-edging a catch to deep third.
Following that, Kyle Mayers and Shamarh Brooks decided to take matters on. They managed at least one four in each of the next five overs to be placed at 52 for 1 after ten overs. Mayers was particularly aggressive and brought up his first ODI half-century off just 42 balls. His march was only slowed down by the spinners coming into the attack and he broke the deadlock by dancing down to hit Yuzvendra Chahal for a six straight over the sightscreen.
With Brooks elegantly taking Shardul Thakur on at the other end – two successive fours to welcome him into the attack and a six to kickstart his second spell – West Indies looked well in the mood. But Thakur dismissed both the batters in back-to-back overs. First Brooks, on 46, pulled a short ball straight down deep backward square leg’s throat before Mayers nicked an almost-yorker to the wicketkeeper.
Pooran joined King and added 51 off just 56 balls to keep them on course. The duo got themselves in by finding the gaps before Pooran hit a couple of sixes off Prasidh while King hit Axar Patel over long-off.
Siraj then came back to have Pooran mistime one to mid-on before Chahal had Rovman Powell caught at slip to threaten a slide. But King, Hosein and Shepherd ensured the viewers left with fewer nails and higher heart rates.
In the morning, when overcast conditions gave way to bright sunshine, the Indian openers feasted on some ill-disciplined new-ball bowling from the hosts. Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales gave away as many as six boundaries in the first six overs, even though they bowled a combined 24 dot balls. At the end of the first powerplay of ten overs, India had raced to 73 without loss, with Dhawan and Gill hitting 11 fours and two sixes while also facing 38 dots.
Gill – chosen ahead of Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad – looked particularly fluent in his strokeplay, driving and flicking at will. He got off the mark with a pristinely-timed cover drive off Seales before executing a perfect backfoot punch in the next over off Joseph. He cashed in on any width provided by the seamers and welcomed left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie with a well-timed six over mid-on, and got to his maiden ODI fifty off just 36 balls.
Dhawan, who had returns of 31*, 9 and 1 in the recent ODI series against England, was happy to leave deliveries outside off to get his eye in before freeing his arms to collect boundaries and make up for the dots. Though he played second fiddle to Gill, Dhawan ensured the good start didn’t go to waste, bringing up his 36th fifty in the format.
Just when it looked like West Indies would struggle to get a breakthrough, Gill threw away a chance to get to triple figures. He tucked a Joseph delivery towards midwicket and set off on a jog, only to be run out by a direct hit from an alert Pooran at square leg.
The five overs after Gill’s wicket brought just 17 runs with Motie mixing up his pace to go with Joseph’s short-ball attack from the other end. But Dhawan broke the shackles by first slog sweeping Motie for a six over deep square leg and then hitting Pooran’s part-time offspin for a maximum over long-on an over later. Iyer then tore into Pooran, hitting a four and a six off successive deliveries, before Dhawan deposited Motie over midwicket again.
However, an acrobatic catch by Shamarh Brooks at backward point ended Dhawan’s innings on 97 off the very next ball. An over later, Iyer fell after his fifty – thanks to a full-stretch leap from Pooran at cover – and the brakes began to be applied on India’s innings.
But Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur managed to find the boundary towards the end of the innings – 36 came from the last three overs – to help India to a total that proved just enough.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo