Rohit Sharma preserved his perfect record as captain in bilateral T20Is on Saturday, as India defeated the West Indies by 59 runs to grab a commanding 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
It was a fantastic weekend for some of the NRIs in and around Florida, to watch India reach 191 for 5 off 31 balls, with crucial knocks from Rishabh Pant (44 off 31 balls) and skipper Rohit Sharma (33 off 16 balls), as well as a cameo from Axar Patel (20 not out off 8 balls).
A goal of 192 was just out of the question on a ground where the best successful run-chase by any side is 98, and the West Indies innings unraveled for a paltry 132 in 19.1 overs.
While Brandon King (13) and Kyle Mayers (14) got the chase began on a high note, striking Bhuvneshwar Kumar for three boundaries in the first over, things quickly deteriorated.
Saturday was the day when Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s new-ball partner Avesh Khan (2/17 in 4 overs) was preparing to erase his reputation as a squanderer with a couple of superb spells.
The delivery that got King halted on him, resulting in a simple return catch.
Devon Thomas (1), a drop batter, wanted to go on, and Avesh’s fuller delivery didn’t strike the middle of his bat, resulting in a skier that Deepak Hooda easily took for one of his three catches.
Nicholas Pooran (24 off 8 balls) looked dangerous with three massive sixes before Mayers sold him a dummy and he was left mid-pitch when Pant smacked the bail.
While Axar Patel (2/48 in 4 overs) took a beating, he also got rid of Mayers and Rovman Powell (24 off 16 balls), both of whom holed out in the deep.
Arshdeep Singh (3/12 in 3.1 overs) then applied the brakes, and by the time the back-10 began, it was a walk in the park. Ravi Bishnoi took advantage of the occasion as well, with consistent figures of 2 for 27 in 4 overs.
Pant and skipper Rohit missed out on huge knocks but made vital contributions to help India reach 191 for 5.
The primary contributors were Rohit and Pant, while Axar produced some hefty punches near the end to finish unscathed on 20 off 8 balls.
Sanju Samson was more reserved during his 30 not out off 23 balls, frequently failing to find the boundaries, preventing India from nearing 200.
Cricket proved a terrific leveller for West Indies left-arm pacer Obed McCoy, who was blasted for 66 runs off his four overs barely a week after taking a career-best six-wicket haul in the second ODI. It was the costliest T20I spell by a West Indian bowler.
Rohit’s new approach in powerplay might not have produced many big knocks save a half-century but he is certainly showing the way with positive intent upfront.
McCoy went for three sixes and 25 runs in an over. In those three, Rohit had a couple of maximums — a pull over deep mid-wicket and a flat one over long-off.
The one that got him maximum cheers was a slog swept six off Akeal Hosein (1/28 in 4 overs), but the very next delivery, which was a tad slower and the length slightly shorter, brought about his downfall.
But Rohit’s 33 in a stand of 53, in less than five overs, set the tone and gave other batters time and confidence to go after the bowling.
The tendency to preserve wickets and then go after bowling, which has been a bane of Indian T20 teams of the recent past, isn’t visible anymore.
The cushion of the strike-rate gave Pant and Deepak Hooda (21 off 19 balls) close to six overs to produce a 47-run stand, which was the launch-pad for the final flourish from Axar.