Winning a match is one thing, but the authoritative manner in which Team India triumphed over the West Indies at Old Trafford is something else. Not for a moment did the West Indies look like a team that could beat a vastly superior side, which won by a margin of 125 runs and also sent out a clear message to its adversaries in the 2019 ICC World Cup. Unbeaten in the five matches they have played so far with the sixth against New Zealand ending without a ball being bowled, the Men in Blue must now be seen as the firm favourites to lift the coveted trophy.
Before meeting India in their seventh match, the West Indies had won just one out of six matches with one tie against South Africa resulting in abandonment because of rain. If there was no upset, an Indian victory was on the cards. The end result was along predictable lines, in other words, although Team India’s batting was a reminder that the middle order continues to be a cause for concern.
Rohit Sharma was unable to convert a minor start into a significant score. He was caught behind for 18 off a Kemar Roach delivery, a decision that frustrated the batsman. KL Rahul was unspectacular but useful, scoring a 64-run 48 and sharing a 69-run partnership with Virat Kohli.
Neither Vijay Shankar (19-ball 14) nor Kedar Jadhav (10-ball 7) clicked, which would revive discussions around Rishabh Pant. Should he be included in the playing eleven for the next match against England? That’s the most important question facing the team management, which it must address and find an answer for.
Indian batting had its share of positives though. Virat Kohli, who has been in fine touch, looked characteristically untroubled while batting for his 82-ball 72. He got out to a Jason Holder delivery that appeared to have stopped on the pitch. He played it early and gave a simple catch to substitute Darren Bravo with the score reading 180 for 5. The 39th over was being bowled at that time, and it seemed India may not touch the 250-run mark.
Hardik Pandya’s 38-ball 46 and his 70-run partnership with MS Dhoni, who played the second fiddle in partnerships with Kohli and Pandya, took India to 268 for 7. After starting out slowly – he looked all set to face more criticism – Dhoni hit 16 off the last over to finish with an unbeaten 56 off 61 deliveries. His final strike rate of 91.8 disguised the fact that he had scored at a very slow rate for the most part of his knock.
The West Indies were never in the hunt, which showed in their final score of 143. Opener Sunil Ambris made 31, the highest, while the normally fluent Nicholas Pooran struggled for his 50-ball 28. Nobody else crossed the 20-run mark, an indication of the effectiveness of Indian bowling.
After his final over hat-trick against Afghanistan, Mohammed Shami produced brilliant figures (4/16) yet again. With Shami bowling like he is, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar whom he has replaced might have to stay out of the playing eleven even after he is fit to return. Jasprit Bumrah was at his unplayable best in his six overs in which he gave away nine runs and took two wickets. Pandya (1/28), Kuldeep Yadav (1/35) and Yuzvendra Chahal (2/39) picked up wickets, too, with the deceptive Yadav troubling the West Indian batsmen in particular.
India’s score of 268 proved to be way beyond reach for the West Indies, whose slight hope of making it to the semi-finals has come to an end. Kohli, Pandya and Dhoni performed with the bat. But the bowlers were the ones who made an easy win possible at Old Trafford.