Port of Spain: Captain Shikhar Dhawan (97), Shubman Gill (64) and Shreyas Iyer (54) slammed half-centuries as India reached 308-7 in 50 overs against the West Indies in the first ODI at Queen’s Park Oval on Friday.
At one point, it seemed that India would easily go past the 350-mark. But an admirable fightback from the West Indies bowling attack in the second half, with left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie and pacer Alzarri Joseph taking two wickets each, apart from the pitch slowing down later on meant the hosts’ were able to restrict India to 308.
Pushed into batting first, India’s start was as bright as the sun emerged from behind the Port of Spain clouds. Dhawan crashed two boundaries off speedster Alzarri Joseph in the opening over — a nice square drive was followed by a smart ramp over the third man.
Gill, preferred ahead of Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad as’India’s second opener, capitalised on the pace of Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales, with a forward punch on the rise through backward point being the standout.
The introduction of all-rounder Romario Shepherd in the seventh over couldn’t stop the run-flow as Dhawan drove and flicked to collect successive boundaries in the all-rounder’s first over. Gill continued to hit boundaries for fun, using his feet to come down the pitch and piling the misery on pacers as well as spinners to reach his maiden ODI fifty in 36 balls.
Six overs later, Dhawan reached his 36th ODI half-century. But the 119-run opening stand was broken by a direct throw from captain Nicholas Pooran in the 18th over. Gill tapped the ball towards mid-wicket and instantly ran for a quick single.
He accelerated at the start but went a little casual in the middle as Pooran grabbed the ball and his direct throw at the non-striker’s end ended Gill’s sublime stay in the middle, laced with six fours and two sixes.
With Iyer taking time to find his rhythm as Joseph tested him with short balls, Dhawan stepped up to get the boundaries against him and Seales on the front foot and back foot. A powerful slog-sweep by Dhawan against Motie over deep square leg going for a huge six had class written all over it.
Iyer joined the boundary-hitting party when he smashed Pooran for three boundaries, two of which were delightful sixes over long-on and deep mid-wicket. At 213/1 in 33 overs, it is like India would get a total of around 370-380. But that’s where the West Indies fightback story began.
Dhawan cut hard on a wide ball from Motie and found the fielder at point, who dived to his right and grabbed the catch with both hands, leaving him just three runs short of a well-deserved century. Just after completing his fifty, Iyer tried to loft inside-out over the off-side against Motie. But Pooran leaped high in the air to catch Iyer by stretching his right hand at the cover.
With the spinners finding some grip off the pitch and fast bowlers mixing their slower balls with pacy ones, wickets began to come for West Indies in quick succession. Suryakumar Yadav chopped on to his stumps off Akeal Hosein while Sanju Samson was trapped lbw by Shepherd.
India then went through a phase of 8.9 overs where no boundaries came for them as Deepak Hooda and Axar Patel struggled to find the boundary rope, with a feeling that the 300-mark may not be achieved.
Patel broke the shackles by slamming Seales for successive boundaries while Hooda pulled over deep mid-wicket for a six to take 20 runs off the 48th over. Though Joseph took out the duo in the next over, Shardul Thakur finished the innings with a swat past long-on for a boundary to take India past 300.
Brief scores: India 308-7 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 97, Shubman Gill 64; Gudakesh Motie 2-54, Alzarri Joseph 2-61) against West Indies