Rishabh Pant

WAR ON BOWLERS: India’s wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, left, watches as West Indies captain Kieron Pollard drives down the field during Friday’s T20 international series opener at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad. West Indies struck 15 sixes and 11 fours in posting 207-5 but India, in turn, hit 12 sixes and 12 fours en route to 209-4, winning by six wickets with eight balls to spare. 

THE RUN GLUT in the series opener has set the template for the rest of the three-match T20 international series between India and West Indies, as batsmen from either side dominated, scoring acombined 416 runs for nine wickets at Hyderabad on Friday. But can the bowlers turn the tables when the two sides meet for the second game in Thiruvananthapuram?

West Indies simply can’t catch a break in the shortest format. The 2016 ICC World T20 champions are languishing at tenth on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings and have lost nine of the ten games they have played this year.

They were even pretty excellent for large parts on Friday. Fresh off a Caribbean Premier League season, they arrived in India having unearthed their latest breakout star in Brandon King, who topped the CPL 2019 run charts and gave a good account of himself with a 23-ball 31 in Hyderabad. But better attacks have been left without answers by a Virat Kohli on the rampage in the past and West Indies suffered the same fate that they all did.

Very little went wrong with the ba, as West Indies once again bullied the opposition bowlers with pure muscle, but their own shortcomings with the ball need attention.

As with West Indies, India had a lot to take away from the bat — most pleasing among them the return to form of KL Rahul, who set up the victory even as a usually fluent Kohli struggled before going ballistic in the slog overs. But their bowling was a let-down, and even more so, their catching, which was summed up by a hat-trick of drops in the 17th over. It was a steep fall from the lofty standards that Virat Kohli’s men have set for themselves.

In a series bound to be defined by big-hitting, bowlers from either side are going to be in for a tough time. Friday’s opener was a mere glimpse of what they can expect for the rest of the series.

West Indies smashed their way to 207-5, with the aid of 11 fours and 15 sixes, to leave India needing to complete their highest ever chase in T20 internationals. Rahul kept them in the hunt for the first half with a crisp half-century, even as India recovered from the early loss of the in-form Rohit Sharma.

Rahul’s dismissal, however, brought zero respite for West Indies. Far from it, though, as a scratchy Kohli suddenly rediscovered his mojo and laid into an unsparing assault on his way to 94 not out off 50 balls to seal the victory with eight balls to spare.

“To young batsmen watching, don’t follow the first half of my innings,” Kohli said. “I was batting poorly that time. I didn’t want to put KL under pressure but I couldn’t get going. Luckily, I got that one over from Holder and then I began to analyse why I’m going wrong. Realised I’m not a slogger but a timer instead and then changed my playing style.”

West Indies captain Kieron Pollard was clearly disappointed with the effort of his bowlers.

“The batters did a good effort. You’d take 208 ten out of ten times,” he said. “We lost due to the extras column. Nearly two-and-a-half overs of extra deliveries. Yes, it was a batting wicket but if we executed our plans better, it could’ve been a different story.”

The Caribbean side will attempt to get it right in the second match today. A mostly clear evening awaits in Thiruvananthapuram. The Greenfield stadium has hosted only two internationals – a T20I in November 2017 and an ODI in the same month, the following year. The ODI, coincidentally, was played between the same two teams. India bundled out West Indies for 104 before cantering to a nine-wicket victory, with more than 35 overs to spare.

icc-cricket.com

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