“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things,” is how Andy described in a letter to Red after release from jail in the film Shawshank Redemption. Well, on Sunday (December 15), at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Hope came to life to leave Kohli & Co. beaten.
Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope put up a thunderous show to kick-start the ODI series with an eight-wicket victory. Belligerent Hetmyer racked up his ODI best with a 139-run knock while Hope kept ticking the scorecard till the end as he stood unbeaten at 102. The top-order Caribbean batters stitched 218 runs together.
On the flip side, Indian bowlers couldn’t make the most of the sluggish Chepauk pitch. Debutant all-rounder Shivam Dube proved to be expensive by conceding 68 runs in 7.5 overs. It was a respite for Men in Blue, when Deepak Chahar jolted the first wicket of Sunil Ambris in the fifth over. But, the in-form Hetmyer walked in to pile up pressure on the Indian bowlers. The southpaw was adjudged Man of the Match for drifting visitors to a comfortable victory.
India’s poor fielding and a couple of leaked catches dumped the bowlers in a dark hole which the latter tried but couldn’t come out till they walked out with dejection. The Windies’ top-order was in good shape and has overshadowed Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer’s 70s made in the first innings. Broken links in the batting order, under par bowling display and cheeky fielding efforts, cost the home team the first one-dayer of a three-match series.
Youngster Rishabh Pant has been compared to MS Dhoni more often than expected, however, during the first ODI against West Indies, the Delhi boy struck his maiden half-century at former skipper’s spiritual home. The wicketkeeper-batsman silenced his critics as India shrugged off a poor start to post a challenging 287 for eight.
Emerging as a solid number four, Shreyas Iyer registered 70 runs off 88 balls, pairing up with Pant (71 off 69) for a 114-run stand for the fourth wicket after India lost opener K L Rahul (6) and skipper Virat Kohli (4) in the seventh over of the innings. It was Iyer’s third consecutive half-century.
Rohit Sharma (36 off 56) too struggled on a slow surface before Iyer and Pant resurrected the innings with their gritty partnership. A quickfire half-century partnership between Kedar Jadhav (40 off 35) and Ravindra Jadeja (21 off 21), who batted ahead of debutant Shivam Dube, provided the thrust in the slog overs.
Left-arm paceman Sheldon Cottrell (2/46 from 10 overs including 3 maidens), Keemo Paul (2/41) and Alzarri Joseph (2/45) were among the wickets for the visiting team.
The home team appeared to be in a spot of bother at 80 for three in the 19th over on a sluggish pitch when Iyer and Pant came together. After taking their time to get going, the two played some splendid shots and were not afraid to hit the ball in the air when the opportunity presented itself.
The fact that the first six of the innings came in the 28th over when Pant smashed offie Roston Chase over mid-wicket was an indicator of the slow proceedings.
Iyer displayed his class as he came up with some lovely cuts against the spinners-Chase and leggie Hayden Walsh. Pant, on his part, showed patience and hit some powerful shots after gaining in confidence and assessing the nature of the pitch.
The two-handled the spinners well and hit a six each apart from some well-timed drives.
Walsh, who had bowled impressively in the T20s preceding this series, was not allowed to settle into any rhythm as Rohit first, and then the Iyer-Pant duo went after him. He was taken for 31 runs in 5 overs.
Iyer perished for a well-made 70 with his dismissal coming against the run of play, when his flick landed in the safe hands of Pollard off Joseph’s bowling, ending a brilliant 114-run fourth-wicket partnership with Pant.
Pant fell going for a big hit, caught by Shimron Hetmyer in the deep of Pollard’s bowling. It was a much-needed knock for an under-fire Pant, who is seen as Dhoni’s heir apparent.
Then the duo of Jadeja and Jadhav, who both play for Chennai Super Kings under Dhoni in the IPL, joined hands for a crucial 59-run stand for the sixth wicket during the course of which they batted judiciously and ran well between the wickets.
While Jadhav holed out to Pollard off Paul, Jadeja was run out. Jadeja was beaten by a Roston Chase throw but was initially not given out. An appeal by a West Indian fielder resulted in the on-field umpire going upstairs, following which the Indian southpaw was declared out.
India got off to a slowish start as Sheldon Cottrell bowled two maiden overs to start with and Jason Holder did not give away much as the openers Rohit and Rahul chose to play cautiously.
After Rahul’s dismissal, Kohli walked into a roar from the Chepauk crowd and played an imperious on-drive off the fourth ball he faced. In an anti-climax, he fell the next ball, bowled off the inside edge as he tried to run one from Cottrell down to the third-man area.
Rohit Sharma gained in confidence and scored a couple of boundaries including a superb straight drive off Holder in the 10th over. He appeared set for a big score before he hit Joseph’s first ball in the match tamely to Pollard at mid-wicket to be dismissed for 36 (56 balls, 6 fours).
There was a moment of mirth for the spectators as a dog entered the field of play in the 26th over with Pant and Iyer at the crease.
Earlier, West Indies captain Pollard won the toss and chose to bowl. India handed an ODI debut to all-rounder Shivam Dube and the expected reunion of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal did not happen as the latter was not included in the playing XI.
Scoreboard: India 287/8 in 50 ovs (Rishabh pant 71, Shreyas Iyer 70; Sheldon Cottrell 2/46) lost to West Indies 291/2 in 47.5 ovs (Shimron Hetmyer 139, Shai hope 102 n.o, Deepak Chahar 1/48, Mohammed Shami 1/57) by eight wickets.
(With inputs from agencies)