The Report by Sidharth Monga, ESPN Cricinfo
India 209 for 4 (Kohli 94*, Rahul 62) beat West Indies 207 for 5 (Hetmyer 56, Lewis 40, Chahal 2-36) by six wickets
An unmistakable sign of greatness shone through as Virat Kohli sealed India’s sixth straight successful chase at home, their second-highest successful one overall.
For a large part of the chase, Kohli kept fighting himself, unable to find his touch, but he found a way to turn a start of a nine-ball-three and a run-a-ball 20 in a two-run-a-ball chase into a match-winning 94 off 50. And he didn’t play all that well. Let it sink in. That’s greatness right there.
Animated, furious at himself and the opposition, Kohli had a capacity crowd live the chase with him. At one point, he hit a six and mocked Kesrick Williams’ signature celebration wherein he pulls out an imaginary notebook from his pocket and pretends to strike off the batsman’s name off.
This was a rare high-scoring T20 match where the side scoring fewer runs in boundaries ended up winning. India managed 120 in boundaries as compared to West Indies’ 134, but West Indies made up for it with the extras they conceded: 21 to India’s four, not counting leg-byes, which are not a sign of ordinary discipline.
West Indies refuse to slow down
The last time India won the toss, they chose to bat against South Africa, knowing fully well defending is their weaker suit, especially in dewy conditions. That, though, was with a series lead in hand. In the series opener against West Indies, they stuck to chasing. West Indies knew they had their task cut out.
From the moment Evin Lewis got stuck into Washington Sundar in the first over, West Indies were on a mission to get themselves a defendable total. It didn’t matter that Lendl Simmons fell in Deepak Chahar’s first over. Brandon King hit the third ball he faced for four. Nor did Lewis’ wicket for 40 off 17 in the sixth over slow them down. When King fell in the 11th over, Shimron Hetmyer immediately hit Ravindra Jadeja for four.
Chahal makes the difference
It seemed India may have missed a trick not bowling the legspin of Yuzvendra Chahal the moment Kieron Pollard walked out. It was 107 for 3 after 11 when Chahal could have exploited Pollard’s weakness against legspin. Instead Shivam Dube was hit for 13, and Jadeja for 12 in the next. However, by getting the wickets of Hetmyer and Pollard in the 18th over, Chahal may have made sure West Indies don’t make an absolute killing of the final few overs. Jason Holder’s nine-ball-24, though, took them to a total India have never chased successfully before.
Rahul charges at West Indies
Dew was going to play a part, but India still needed a quick start to this chase. Back as opener in Shikhar Dhawan’s absence, KL Rahul provided just that. He went after Holder in the second over, and then made sure India didn’t fall streets behind when Kohli struggled for a start upon the early dismissal of Rohit Sharma. Along the way he became the third-fastest to 1000 T20 international runs in terms of innings taken to get there.
The Kohli show
At the other end, though, Kohli was just not himself. But in being that, he was more himself than he can ever be. At every shank, he kept admonishing himself. Then he tried harder, and shanked harder. West Indies, generous with wides, were smart with their changes of pace. Perhaps a word or three flew too. A border-line no-ball call for height went West Indies’ way. Kohli reacted to everything, especially to the bowlers’ interaction with him. Many a great batsman are known to go in their shell and only respond to chirping once the job is done, but Kohli was thriving on it. He was perhaps looking for it. Who knows if there was any chirping?
All we know is Kohli was not happy, and he was willing himself to concentrate harder. Reading body language is usually fraught with risks, but you could obviously say Kohli on this night was in some other zone. And with every single he took, the asking rate went up. At the halfway mark, India needed to go at 11.9 an over. Hayden Walsh then bowled a lovely over but Kohli got away with an inside edge for four. In the next over, Holder set him up for the slower bouncer, which has brought him success with Kohli before, but this top edge sailed over for six. Then he smacked a full toss for four and fought with the umpires for a no-ball. The man was fighting every inch, hyper aware of everything.
In the 13th over, Williams bowled two no-balls, but it was still obvious that Kohli was struggling for timing against him. Amid all this, Rahul drilled Khary Pierre straight to long-off. India still needed 78 off 39, and Kohli had only just begun to find his bearings.
India promoted Rishabh Pant, which brought them double dividend. Apart from the right-left combination, it meant the legspinner Walsh didn’t bowl anymore. And Pant made sure of that with the first ball he faced, getting down on a knee and smacking Pierre for a six. Kohli fed off it, and went after Holder in the next over. Nineteen runs came off five balls, and at 55 required off 34, India’s win probability had gone from 27 to 73 according to Cricinfo’s forecaster.
Trying big hits, Pant and Shreyas Iyer fell to keep West Indies interested but Kohli was never going to come back with the chase unfinished. Not on this night.