Empathetic win for West Indies in 2nd T20I

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By Our Sports Affairs Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India could manage to post just 170/7 in 20 over but the visitors did well and reached the target only losing 2 wickets and won the match by 8 wickets in 2nd T20I played here.

On Sunday night, in front of a capacity crowd in Thiruvananthapuram, West Indies opener Lendl Simmons pulled off the cricketing equivalent of the RKO. “Simmons, where did he come from?” asked a local reporter. Out of nowhere.

Before West Indies’ tour of India, to face Afghanistan first and then India, Simmons had last played an international in June 2017. Fellow Trinidadian Samuel Badree had taken the new ball for West Indies in that game. Badree is no longer active in international cricket, and in IPL 2019 he had been hired by Delhi Capitals as their spin-bowling coach. More recently, in CPL 2019, Badree was commentating on Simmons’ batting.Simmons wasn’t even supposed to be part of CPL 2019, although he is second only to Chris Gayle in terms of most runs scored in the league over the years. Simmons found no takers at the CPL draft earlier this year, after having fetched the biggest bid in 2018.

Then, with Colin Munro being away with New Zealand on international duty, Kieron Pollard’s Trinbago Knight Riders signed him up as a replacement player for the first half of the season. And, after regular captain Dwayne Bravo was sidelined from the entire tournament with injury, Knight Riders drafted him into the squad as a permanent member.

Simmons had a point to prove. That he still has it in the CPL. He scored 430 runs in 11 innings at an average of nearly 40 and strike rate of 150.34. Simmons’ hot form in a misfiring Knight Riders batting line-up nearly took them to the final. On the back of his stellar run in the CPL – and under a new management – Simmons was back in the West Indies fold for the India trip.

Once Shimron Hetmyer entered at No. 3 and began clearing the boundary, Simmons sat back briefly and just dinked the ball into the gaps, ensuring that the asking rate was always within West Indies’ grasp.

West Indies reached 113 for 2 in 14 overs, and were in need of 58 runs in the last six overs, with eight wickets in hand. Sure, they had captain Pollard waiting in their dugout, but they were without Fabian Allen, St Kitts & Nevis Patriots’ finisher in the CPL. And Brandon King was playing just his sixth international. Plus, India had Chahal to match up with Pollard.

Simmons had no problems in dealing with Chahal. He took the chase deep and targeted India’s gun bowler, hitting 20 off ten balls from him. He raised a 38-ball fifty in the 15th over, when he jumped across off and slugged Chahal against the break for another six. Simmons then ran down the track to Bhuvneshwar and crunched him through extra-cover to silence the crowd. West Indies eventually completed the chase with considerable comfort.

“[I] like playing against India, it’s a good challenge,” Simmons told Star Sports after winning the Man of the match award. “[I] haven’t played international cricket for a while, good to be back on the circuit, playing for the West Indies.

“Those guys can go at it from ball one, they have a different type of talent. I’m a bit old school, take my time initially. I understand my game, understand my role in the team. My job in the powerplay is to go hard. Easier to bat outside the powerplay, knock the ball around and get the odd boundary. [Nicholas] Pooran and Hetmyer were getting boundaries easily so I played the different role.”

Some of Simmons’ strokes revived memories of that innings against India in the T20 World Cup semi-final more than three years ago. In fact, that was Simmons’ last T20I half-century before Sunday. That had come out of nowhere as well. He made it to the tournament as a replacement player for the injured Andre Fletcher, flying across continents and hitting the ground running in Mumbai.

Simmons will now return to the scene of his previous T20 World Cup heroics, with an eye on the next World Cup in Australia. That’s later, though. For now, India must have an eye on him – he can blindside opponents, you see.

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