India will focus on keeping everything under control and the ball in their favour as they head into the third and final One-Day International against West Indies in Cuttack on Sunday (December 22), eyeing a 10th straight bilateral series win over the Caribbean side.
After being taken by surprise by the tourists in the opening game of the three-match series in Chennai, India bounced back to level the series 1-1 in Visakhapatnam.
The home side, who’ve been facing a crisis of not being able to set big targets for the rivals when put tp bat first, showed an all-round performance in the second match.
While skipper Virat Kohli once again departed for a rare duck, the openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul registered their centuries, before spinner Kuldeep Yadav took another hat-trick to become the only Indian player to take two hat-tricks in the limited-overs format.
The hosts are on a record-breaking spree as three days after blasting the Windies with his 159 runs, Sharma stands just nine runs short of surpassing former Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya’s 22-year-old record of being the highest run-scorer as an opener across all the formats.
Sharma’s knock alongside Rahul’s century contributed to the 220-run opening partnership which assured the latter to be considered in the opening position in the long run.
Opening the innings since the India-Pakistan World Cup clash in June, Rahul has made steady progress. In the recent assignments against the West Indies, he has been a revelation, scoring runs at will.
India’s 107-run victory comes after the hosts failed to defend their target in the first game only to see their top-order fail added with their terrible fielding and not-so-impressive bowling.
The only saving grace for the home side to put up an acceptable target in Chennai were the middle-order duo of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant who are in good form and will eye to end their year in a positive note.
As for India’s bowling attack which is feared by many around the world, Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini might make his ODI debut as a replacement for the injured Deepak Chahar, who was ruled out of the match with a lower back problem.
The fielding, though, has failed to match the high standards India have set in recent years.
While Iyer’s effort to dismiss Shimron Hetmyer was eye-catching, Chahar dropped a sitter off Nicholas Pooran and grassed Shai Hope for a duck at the slip cordon, something that attracted Kohli’s attention.
“We can’t be dropping the catches and we should be better off in this department, improve on our mistakes. You should enjoy fielding.” the visibly-concerned Indian captain said.
The pitch at the Barabati Stadium is going to be similar to the one in Visakhapatnam, offering plenty of runs.
The left-right combination of Hetmyer and Hope plotted India’s downfall in Chennai and had it not been for a brilliant throw from Iyer to run out the former in Visakhapatnam, the Windies would have put up a strong fight in the second ODI.
Hetmyer, who struck a career-best 139 in Chennai, was over the moon and danced in excitement after being bought for Rs 7.75 crore by Delhi Capitals in the IPL auction.
His teammate Sheldon Cottrell also took home a hefty paycheck after the left-arm pacer was bought for Rs 8.5 crore by Kings XI Punjab, and the Windies duo will be bolstered by that.
Hope, who is second only to Rohit in the run chart this year, will look to make a statement after the wicketkeeper-batsman went unsold at the auction.
Kieron Pollard’s team had no hesitation in chasing after winning the toss in the first two ODIs but come Sunday, the teams will be thinking twice before bowling second keeping the dew factor in mind.
The West Indies, at the same time, will be keen to end a 13-year long wait to win against India in a bilateral ODI series. While the hosts, who lost to Australia 2-3 in their last bilateral series in March, will have their reputation at stake.
They have not lost two consecutive bilateral ODI series at home in the last 15 years.
The last time an ODI was played here more than two years ago, India had pipped England by 15 runs while defending an imposing 382.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Shradul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shivam Dube, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey and Navdeep Saini.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (capt), Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Alzarri Joseph, Khary Pierre, Sheldon Cottrell, Sunil Ambris, Brandon King, Romario Shepherd and Hayden Walsh.
The match starts at 1.30 PM.
(With inputs from agencies)