Virat plays ‘Virat Innings’ as Team India clinches the ODI series against West Indies

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By Our Sports Affairs Bureau

CUTTACK/BHUBANESWAR: Indian Skipper Virat Kohil once again on Sunday proved his mettle and led the Team India to a fighting win against the visitors West  Indies in the 3rd and final D-N ODI played at the historic Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.

With flamboyant batting display by the Skipper, host reached the target with 8 balls remaining and won the match by 4 wickets and clinched the ODI series. Kohil along with Rabindra Jadeja steered the Indian innings till the win.

Earlier, a sensational onslaught from Nicholas Pooran and Kieron Pollard helped West Indies recover from 144 for 4 in the 32nd over and post a total of 315. The ease with which West Indies took 105 runs off the last eight overs, however, was only a reminder that it took a grand effort to defend 381 in the last ODI at this ground. The result of the match notwithstanding, this was a grand effort in itself to keep West Indies in the contest: Pooran scored 89 off 64, and Pollard hit seven sixes in an unbeaten 51-ball 74.

India, especially their captain Virat Kohli, looked frustrated and stunned as the sixes flew in the end, but they owned the early exchanges. Having shown they were capable of competing after losing the toss to stay alive in the series, India showed in the decider that they could be dangerous if they won the toss too. There was just enough grip in the pitch to stifle the batsmen in the afternoon, but not enough to persist once the pitch quickens up in the evening. As much was evident once the sun set.

Not that spin caused major damage: Mohammed Shami dislodged West Indies’ anchorman Shai Hope, and Navdeep Saini made an impressive debut with two middle-overs wickets. Before the execution, there was a clear improvement in the planning. All three quicks were liberal with the use of the short ball. In the first 10 overs, they bowled 16 of them. In Chennai, they bowled 15 in the whole innings. And it was good, aggressive short bowling, keeping Hope and Evin Lewis honest. And when Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja tied them up further with their slowness, a frustrated Lewis went for the big hit, which might have come off on a skiddy pitch but not on this one.

West Indies promoted Roston Chase, putting together two anchor men. The spinners began to create pressure, the run rate – 4.4 after 10 overs – dipped below four, and Kohli went for the kill. Shami came back and got one to nip back through Hope’s defence. Shimron Hetmyer brought much-needed urgency to proceedings, but Saini, who was driven first ball for four off a gentle floater, came back with a not-so-gentle spell.

Saini cramped Hetmyer up with a bouncer, and while the batsman might not have gone for a big hit in normal circumstances, he knew West Indies were behind the rate at 132 for 2 in the 30th over. He was caught at the fence. Saini followed it up with a lovely yorker to Chase in his next over to leave West Indies reeling.

It was here perhaps that Kohli took the foot off the gas, opting to bowl Jadeja out despite having looked for wickets in the middle overs. By the time Kuldeep came back, Pooran and Pollard had had a sighter and were ready to counterattack. It began with two sixes off Kuldeep in the 37th over, which prompted Kohli to get in the ear of Pollard. Pooran’s hitting was much less conspicuous. When he announced himself by disdainfully hitting Shardul Thakur for a six like a spinner, he had already scored 28 off 32. This just announced a shifting of gears.

Kuldeep soon had another two-six over, Saini’s figures were rearranged, and Shami’s quest for the yorker didn’t always prove fruitful. India hardly tried a slower ball in these overs; when they did it brought the wicket of Pooran, who incredibly threatened to bring up a century having been on 28 at the 39-over mark. The wicket, which came in the 48th over, brought no respite for India as Pollard kept on with his hitting. He scored 37 off the last 12 balls he faced.

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