Shimron Hetmeyer scored his third hundred in only his 13th ODI, a display of attractive strokeplay, but it only set up a festive bonanza for a sold-out Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati. The hapless West Indies bowlers found themselves caught in a hit-out between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who chased down 323 with ridiculous ease.
Kohli scored his 36th ODI hundred – his 22nd in chases – and Rohit his 20th. They added 246 delightful runs, their 15th century partnership and fifth of 200 or more.
This partnership’s aggregate is now only five behind Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan in this era of Indian ODI cricket. Dhawan’s early exit, to the impressively quick Oshane Thomas, was the last moment of joy for West Indies.
What happened earlier would have seemed satisfying to captain Jason Holder, who had asked his team to score 300 regularly, but on a flat Indian track, against this top order, they were 40 too short. And for that they had their batsmen to blame: so many of them got starts – Kieran Powell even got to fifty – but only Hetmeyer reached three figures, and even he left the job unfinished.
It was left to Kemar Roach and Devendra Bishoo to bat out the last six overs, which they did admirably, adding 44, but that was the time when a proper batsman should have been putting Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, not India’s first-choice ODI quicks, under pressure and taking the team past 350.
The drastic change in the conditions and the ball from Test cricket was evident in how Hetmeyer turned it all around. After averaging 12.5 in the Test series, he hit a 78-ball 106, attacking despite wickets falling at the other end. In isolation, Hetmeyer’s hitting was sensational.
He hit six sixes and six fours, and did so when conventional thinking would have called for consolidation and rebuilding. When Hetmeyer started, Kieran Powell had just brought a tame end to his similarly sensational but half-as-long innings with a hit straight to long-on. When Marlon Samuels was out for a second-ball duck, West Indies were 86 for 3 in the 16th over.
This is usually the time when India turn the screws, especially given their middle-overs wicket-taking form, the best since the Champions Trophy bar Afghanistan, who get to play lesser opposition. However, they were without the injured Kedar Jadhav and they had left out Kuldeep Yadav for this match. Kuldeep was also the man who had dismissed Hetmeyer in three of his four innings in the Test series.
With nobody turning the ball away from him, Hetmeyer set himself up for big hits frequently. It was almost like taking a single was the last option in his mind. He was ferocious on the pull, and upset the spinners with his powerful sweeps. Seventy-five of his runs came through 34 scoring shots into the leg side.
The wickets kept falling despite partnerships. Hetmeyer kept going, bringing up his hundred with a stylish off-driven six off Shami in the 38th over.
At 246 for 5, West Indies would have hoped for another 100 at least in the remaining overs. And then Hetmeyer mistimed a sweep off Jadeja, and wickets began falling again. The fall of wickets continued at the start of the second innings with Thomas announcing himself with an early spell in which he hit the high 140s consistently.
Thomas’ pace was his enemy in these conditions with little help from the conditions. West Indies knew they couldn’t afford to let Kohli get into his innings so they attacked him more. Two slips, bouncers, the works. This spell of play was electric, but it eventually left West Indies shocked. Every minute error in length or line was punished by Kohli. Before they realised what had hit them, Kohli had reached fifty in 35 balls. Rohit, 18 off 21, looked like Mother Teresa in comparison.
Pretty soon it was clear West Indies had been below par with the bat. With the ball, they were dejected after that early Kohli onslaught. Kohli even played the cut regularly – or the back-foot drive that comes close to resembling it. It is not a shot he plays that often, but he knew he was going to be tested with the short stuff, and he wasn’t going to let bowlers dictate in these conditions.
Once spin came on, it was cash-in time. Rohit played himself in, and once he began hitting out, the bowlers were like a little ball caught in a pinball machine with two extremely long flippers. If one didn’t get them, the other did. Shot for shot, the two matched each other. Kohli took the ground, Rohit the airspace. Kohli hit 21 fours to Rohit’s 15, Rohit eight sixes to Kohli’s two.
Too stunned to react, the bowlers just kept turning up to claim their punishment. Never mind the two no-balls by legspinner Devendra Bishoo, there was one for West Indies having one fielder too few in the circle. Not that it mattered even when they could push that man out after the 40th over. Rohit hit Thomas for three successive fours before bringing up the win and also his sixth ODI 150 with a six over long-off. (ESPN cricinfo)