A breathtaking Virat Kohli masterclass dashed West Indies’ hopes of victory in the opening Twenty20 International yesterday, as India trounced them by six wickets with eight balls to spare and took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Set an imposing 208 for victory at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, India found themselves off the pace somewhat on 96 for one at the end of the 11th over, with the required run rate climbing to nearly 12-½ per over.
However, Kohli came to his side’s rescue with a sparkling, career-best unbeaten 94 off 50 balls, which saw India plunder the last 112 runs needed for victory off just 46 deliveries as they raced to 209 for four in reply to the Windies’ 207 for five.
Opener KL Rahul provided the early impetus, smashing 62 from 40 balls to help lay the foundation for India’s highest-ever successful run chase in T20 Internationals.
West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard lamented the amount of extras sent down by his team but was pleased by their effort with the bat to post a competitive total.
“We batted well. If you asked us to score 200 runs, we would take that,” Pollard said after the loss.
“I must commend the batters for how they went out and executed, they showed great intent from the start and the running between the wickets was good to see. It is exciting times for us. We won’t get everything right overnight but overall, we were happy with the way we batted,” he continued.
“When you give India — a team with world-class players — extra deliveries, you’re asking for trouble. We gave away too many extras and that cost us in the end,” Pollard added.
The West Indies were in the contest thanks to Shimron Hetmyer’s maiden T20 International half-century, as the visitors posted their fifth highest total in the format and their highest in nearly three-and-a-half years.
The left-hander blasted 56 from 41 deliveries, opener Evin Lewis stroked 40, Pollard struck 37 and Brandon King, 31.
They were in danger of stalling and falling short of the 200-run mark before Jason Holder lashed a nine-ball, unbeaten 24 to help the Caribbean side gather 63 runs from the last five overs.
For West Indies, the defeat was the 18th in their last 22 T20 Internationals inside the last two years, and their seventh straight loss to India.
Sent in, they lost Lendl Simmons for two in the second over, nicking a Deepak Chahar out-swinger to slip, but a series of strong partnerships stabilised the innings and put them in command.
Lewis, who punched three fours and four sixes in a 17-ball cameo, put on 51 off 26 balls for the second wicket with King who, in turn, added a further 37 for the third with Hetmyer.
When King missed a charge at left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and was stumped off the first ball of the 11th over after counting three fours and a six, Hetmyer and Pollard combined in a 71-run, fourth wicket partnership to dominate India’s bowling.
Capitalising on unusually poor fielding, Hetmyer belted two fours and four sixes in a 41-ball knock while Pollard — twice let off by Rohit Sharma in the 17th over — clobbered a four and four sixes off just 19 deliveries.
Leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal broke the stand when Hetmyer holed out to deep square in the 18th over and Pollard followed two balls later, bowled leg stump by a googly.
Holder ended the innings with a flourish, however, smashing a four and a couple of sixes in an unbroken 34-run, sixth wicket partnership with Denesh Ramdin (11 not out).
India then enjoyed a breezy start to their reply with Rahul posting 30 off 20 balls for the first wicket with Rohit (8).
When left-arm spinner Khary Pierre (2-44) got Rohit to hole out to Hetmyer at deep mid-wicket in the fourth over, West Indies were fancying their chances of making further inroads but Kohli arrived to turn the tide.
He smashed half-a-dozen fours and sixes, posting exactly 100 with Rahul before adding 48 for the third wicket with Rishabh Pant (18), as India reclaimed the momentum.
Kohli struggled initially at the start, scraping 20 from his first 20 balls before exploding to reach his half-century off 35 balls with an audacious punch over the ropes at long off, off the expensive Holder.
Rahul carved out five fours and four sixes before finding Pollard in the deep off Pierre in the 14th over and Pant bludgeoned two sixes before picking out Holder at long off, going after a slower delivery from pacer Sheldon Cottrell.
By the time Shreyas Iyer (4) drove a return catch to Pollard at the end of the 18th over, India required just 15 from the last 12 balls, and Kohli tore into seamer Kesrick Williams in the penultimate over with a couple of sixes as India won emphatically.