CUTTACK: India wriggled out of a precarious position to clinch a nerve-wrecking one-wicket victory over the West Indies in the first one-dayer which turned out to be a low-scoring thriller on Tuesday.
After restricting the visitors to 211 for nine, India were tottering at 59 for five before riding on Rohit Sharma’s 99-ball 72 to scrape past the target with seven balls to spare and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Rohit took India close to the victory target before getting out with 11 runs to get, leaving it to the last pair of Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav to see the hosts through in a game which went down to the wire.
Rohit staged a fine comeback by playing a knock, which was laced with three boundaries and a six, and along with Ravindra Jadeja (38), put on an 83-run partnership for the sixth wicket to set it up for India.
But there was excitement galore as fortunes ebbed and flowed till the very end.
After two wicket-maiden overs following Rohit’s dismissal, the visitors had a real chance to wrap it up with the last two Indian batsmen requiring 11 to finish the task.
There was a lot of drama and confusion between the two batsmen but the West Indies could not dislodge them as India recorded their 10th win on the trot at home, beginning with their World Cup success.
Aaron slammed Darren Sammy for a four before Yadav hit the winning boundary in the same over as the hosts broke into celebrations.
Earlier, India’s young bowling attack performed creditably and justified stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag’s decision to field as it restricted the West Indies to a modest total.
Yadav (2/33) was the pick of the three-pronged Indian pace attack, which ensured that the team did not miss Praveen Kumar who was ruled out of the series due to a fractured rib.
Aaron also picked up two wickets while R Vinay Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina had one each in a disciplined show.
Darren Bravo was the top-scorer for the West Windies with 60 (74b, 6×4) but the stylish left-hander could not convert his knock into a big one.
He was involved in a 75-run fourth-wicket partnership with Danza Hyatt (31 from 54 balls; 2×4, 1×6) as the duo somewhat repaired the damage done by the Indian pacemen early on but could not consolidate.
It was a flop show by the much-fancied Kieron Pollard who took 33 balls for his 13 runs, leaving the visitors to bank on a 22-run cameo by Andre Russell to get past the 200-mark.
In reply, the strong Indian batting line-up left the packed crowd stunned with a reckless display, before Rohit steadied the innings. It was not an ideal time for Rohit to come into the middle with India reeling on 47 for three.
Immediately after he joined Sehwag, some frustrated ones in the packed crowd hurled missiles at Pollard, forcing the match to be stopped for about five minutes.
Rohit however remained unfazed, and focussed on the task ahead. In his comeback match, the task only got tougher as two quick wickets followed in the form of Sehwag and Suresh Raina.
India’s top five were back in the dressing room with just 59 on the board in 11.2 overs, when Jadeja joined Rohit.
With 153 runs needed for victory, the last two recognised Indian pair staged a recovery act.
Fresh from his match-winning 175 against Railways and 100 vs Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, Rohit was not short on confidence and found an ally in Jadeja.
The Saurashtra left-hander, incidentally, had a triple hundred in a domestic match at the same ground.
The duo batted intelligently to take India closer by 70 runs before Jadeja got out.
India suffered another blow when Ashwin ran himself out in a fashion strikingly similar to the one in the dramatic drawn third Test in Mumbai.
After a breezy start by India with 15 runs coming from Kemar Roach’s error-prone first over, India soon found themselves on the backfoot.
Opener Parthiv Patel (12) once again failed to cash in on the opportunity, getting out to a wide delivery, and so was the case with Gautam Gambhir.
Having opened his account with a boundary, an over- ambitious Gambhir was dismissed by Roach.
The Windies pacer was on a roll, picking up his third victim in Virat Kohli.
It was around the same time that play was stopped, and the situation only got worse for India after resumption as they lost Sehwag (20) and Raina (5).
But just like in the Test series, Sammy’s men once again failed to capitalise, letting Sharma and Jadeja off the hook.
Earlier, the trio of Yadav, Aaron and Vinay picked one apiece initially, with the top three of the Windies batting – Lendl Samuels (19), Adrian Barath (17) and Marlon Samuels (10) – making their way back to the dressing room with the scoreboard reading 52.
The Windies top-order looked reckless as Vinay gave the first breakthrough, dismissing Barath, who looked in elegant touch before edging one behind.
Aaron began his spell with a bang when he castled a dangerous-looking Samuels who was beaten by a fast incoming delivery.
Yadav, the most impressive of the three, generated good pace and got his reward when he went through Simmons defence with a 144kph trailblazer. He had an impressive first spell that read 5-1-22-1.
Bravo looked to rebuild the Windies innings with Hyatt but lack of sensible approach hurt the Windies’ cause as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
A poor coordination between the duo resulted in Hyatt’s run out while Bravo, dropped twice – on 27 and 59 – eventually departed for 60 after being foxed by part-time off-spinner Raina.
Big-hitter Pollard too did not last long, exposing the tail in what was another meek display by the Windies line-up.
India: Virender Sehwag (Capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Parthiv Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Vinay Kumar, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (Capt.), Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Danza Hyatt, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Anthony Martin, Kemar Roach. (PTI)