– West Indies v India, 2nd T20I, Lauderhill
FINAL SCORE: West Indies 143 (Charles 43, Mishra 3-24, Ashwin 2-11, Bumrah 2-26) v India 15 for 2
International cricket has lost valuable time in ‘strange circumstances’ in recent weeks – bright daylight but non-drying outfields in rainy months – but what happened in Lauderhill today (Sunday) might just be too bizarre for even cricket to come up with. For 40 minutes at the start of the day, on another beautiful sunny morning, the full house at the ground was denied cricket because the broadcasters suffered an “unavoidable” and “technical” problem. Once the game began, India bowled superbly to bowl West Indies out for 143, but two overs into the chase, a 20-minute shower was enough to ensure the three remaining overs required to constitute a result would not be bowled.
This two-match series, which West Indies won 1-0, was supposed to be an exercise to take the game into a new market, a market where fans are used to being treated better than cricket tends to treat fans in India. They would have been in for a rude surprise when, after paying steep prices for their tickets, they didn’t even get a proper public announcement explaining the delayed start. The broadcasters had paid massive sums for the rights and deserved some consideration, but there was rain expected later in the afternoon. You can imagine the eggshells the match officials would have walked on while sanctioning that delay.
The fans turned up in droves, but only got to watch 22 overs © BCCI
That was not the last bizarre act of the day. At around 12:40pm, with India looking to be on their way to a win having restricted West Indies, it rained for around 20 minutes. The ground didn’t have a Super Sopper, and wasn’t covered fully. The business area was promptly ready for play and the deep parts of the outfield drained well too, but the top of the bowlers’ run-ups, around the area where the painted advertisements are, didn’t dry up. The captains were seen looking at that particular area with concern minutes before the game was called off at 2pm.
The official presentation was carried out in gloomy circumstances with the official interviewer steering clear of even mentioning the delayed start, without which the crowd would have had a result. The studio shows and the official interviewer only spoke of how humans are helpless against “mother nature” and “weather”. Without being prompted, the West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite said he hoped the drainage and equipment would improve at the ground, which he said was a wonderful venue otherwise.
It would have been particularly disappointing for the India fans who would have been expecting to celebrate a bowling comeback after their side went for 245 on Saturday, and the comeback of Amit Mishra. He last played a Twenty20 international during the World T20 in 2014. In the next year-and-a-half India only played bilateral Twenty20 internationals, not bothering with flying in T20 specialists for one or two three-hour matches. By the time India started taking T20 internationals seriously again, in the lead-up to the 2016 World T20, Mishra had lost out to Pawan Negi and Harbhajan Singh without being given a chance to build on his impressive bowling in 2014.
Now, perhaps precisely because India didn’t bother to fly in T20 specialists for another bilateral series, Mishra got another chance, and made immediate impact to help India bowl West Indies out for 143.
Mishra removed Johnson Charles with the first ball he bowled, inside the Powerplay. Charles had run away to 43 off 24 in the first five overs, but Mishra began with a front-of-the-hand legbreak that followed Charles as opposed to turning away, cramping him up, getting him caught at long-on. After that the spinners choked the life out of the West Indies batting. Ravindra Jadeja zipped through with quiet overs, and R Ashwin bowled cleverly to take the wickets of Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard.
The fact that spinners bowled so well just after the Powerplay meant India could afford to introduce Jasprit Bumrah after the 10th over. He prefers the ball to be as old as possible. Bumrah responded immediately with the wicket of Marlon Samuels, and the others tightened the screws around him. West Indies, with Brathwaite coming in at No. 9, kept coming hard at India even though they kept losing wickets. India still kept taking wickets, bowling West Indies out for a below-par score, but they were powerless against the “weather”.
(By Sidharth Monga, assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo)