The West Indies completed a 4-1 rout of India, winning the fifth and final One-Day International by 19 runs at the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Sunday.
Set a challenging target of 256, after the home side posted 255 for 6 in their 50 overs, the Indians, despite a painstaking 95 by Virender Sehwag, were bowled out for 236 in 48 overs.
Left-arm spinner Dave Mohammed, playing his first match of the series, and fast bowler Jerome Taylor wrecked the Indian innings, returning figures of 3-39 and 3-48 respectively.
Earlier, the West Indies recovered after a disastrous start thanks to fine knocks from Chris Gayle (51), Ramnaresh Sarwan (52) and man-of-the-match Dwayne Bravo (62).
Ramnaresh Sarwan was adjudged man of the series.
- 50/2 in 10
The big plus for India on the biggest chase of the series was not having Fidel Edwards and Ian Bradshaw fronting the attack. Again, keeping the size of the chase in mind, India opted to send out Sehwag alongside Uthappa, though the original plan was to open with Dravid while Sehwag slipped into the middle.
As in the West Indies innings, the second delivery of the Indian innings produced problems in this case, a Wavell Hinds delivery that was angled in, hit length around off and jagged back away from the batsman. Uthappa followed it and got the edge; unlike Dhoni, Ramdhin held the simple take and India was in trouble right off the bat (0/1).
The use of Hinds at the top was in itself interesting he is not by a long chalk the quickest of the Windies bowlers; clearly, Lara was banking on early swing and seam, at a gentle pace, to play into the pitch condition.
At the other end, Sehwag got a preview of the Tests to come, as Jerome Taylor opened with two successive bouncers, then nagged him on that off line on three quarter length, giving neither the width to play square nor the length to drive.
An interesting tactical battle developed. Hinds with his gentle medium pace was not likely to give the batsmen pace to work with, so Lara who through this series hasn't put a foot wrong in the field brought both third man and fine leg up, and pushed mid on and mid off deep for Dhoni who loves to hit straight.
Dhoni countered by dancing down to Hinds, making his own pace and using the bottom hand to shovel a brace, then a four on the on side; immediately, Ramdhin came up to the stumps to keep Dhoni honest.
Those two factors shutting down the straight field, and getting the keeper up combined to cause Dhoni's downfall. Unable to hit straight or to change the length by going down the track, the keeper-batsman was forced to stay well inside his crease and try to muscle the ball square; an attempt to do so off a fuller length Hinds delivery that stayed a touch low and jagged a touch in off the seam ended in an inner edge onto the stumps (14/19; India 26/2 in the 7th over).
At the other end, Sehwag played well within himself. Unusually watchful even against deliveries he would in his pomp have dismissed with contempt, the opener looked merely to settle in it was only when bowlers strayed onto his pads that he picked the no-risk flicks to get runs in bulk.
Dravid, who got off the blocks with a flick to fine leg, chased a Hinds delivery a long way outside his stump and got an under edge to the third man fence, and followed it up with a more authentic extra cover drive a ball later.
India's best chance here is the overs between 11-30 which is where the Windies innings became becalmed a touch, thanks to some very good spin bowling backed by a spell of alert fielding. The loss of Dhoni in particular is a blow, but at the ten over mark, India on 50/2 is, at least where runs are concerned, a tick below the Windies 52/1. If they can go at better than four an over during the next 20 overs, the chase should become a lot simpler.
Till this point in the series, Brian Lara has out-thought Rahul Dravid in every department not the best of signs for the Test series to follow. And if the Windies captain can pull this off, with two front line bowlers not playing and Corey Colleymore off the field with a dodgy ankle after a fielding mishap, the visiting team's morale going into the Tests will be about as low as it has been in recent times.
PostScript: Just as it is sure the Windies bowlers will target Sehwag with the short stuff, stand by for Lara to place a short midwicket and a square leg up close in the Tests, and getting his bowlers to use the very full length on the stumps to Dravid, looking for the LBW. Clearly, that is a line the Windies quicks fancy against the Indian captain, who has a Ricky Ponting-like penchant for falling away a touch too much to off as he looks to flick off his pads to the very full length.
- 112/3 in 20
Unlike Dravid during the Windies innings, Lara opted to take his power play at once the fact that Sehwag wasn't exactly hitting his straps could well have been one reason.
Interestingly, he also tossed his young left-arm spinner Dave Mohammad into the fire, giving him the ball in the 11th and the youngster responded well, first forcing a miscue as Sehwag came down the track to him and was lucky the squirt off the toe of the bat didn't carry to point, and then having Dravid wrong-footed as the Indian captain attempted a glide to the delivery going across him.
After losing the first game, Brian Lara said the single biggest reason for the result was that his team had fielded badly. True enough, but the hard part would have been getting his young bunch to reverse that, to up the collective standard. In that, he has succeeded to an unimaginable degree the Windies, here, are fielding on par with the best sides in the world, and that factor, especially crucial in low-scoring conditions, has contributed to creating the sort of pressure India has buckled under.
Mohammad proved he is as good as the best, with a great piece of anticipation in the 13th over. India had looked to be taking charge, with Sehwag knocking two fours off Taylor in the 12th to push the run rate up above the six an over mark. Mohammad in the next over tossed one up, Sehwag pushed towards the mid on region and took off.
The bowler checked his follow through, anticipated where Sehwag was going with his shot, and raced around to field, and throw off balance and onto the stumps, with Dravid a long way from gaining the crease (18/25; India 73/3).
That kind of effort works in two ways: it got a wicket just when the batting side was building up a head of steam, but its real effect was seen in the subsequent overs, as Sehwag and Yuvraj, normally good runners, kept hesitating in their calling, seemingly never sure if a well timed dive out of the blue could stymie their innings.
Mohammad is an interesting spinner, seemingly comfortable tossing the ball right up; he gets turn, and has a well disguised googly that time and again got Sehwag in trouble and even beat Dravid on a couple of occasions.
After several abortive attempts to work the bowler square, Sehwag finally lined up a flighted googly and powered him back over the umpire's head and into the straight sightscreen for a six.
An over later, he uncorked the same shot this time, to Dwayne Bravo taking over from Mohammad; the opener hit him like a spinner, stepping into the shot, freeing his arms and powering him over the straight field, this time for four. A punch to cover for a single off the next ball got him to his second 50 of the series (53 balls, 7 fours, 1 six, 35 dot balls), this one a lot more assured than his previous knock.
At the other end, Yuvraj eased into his innings with checked punches played with a lot of fluency and timing (again, great sprints by the fielders saving at least two certain fours before the left hander had even gotten into double figures).
In the earlier post, I'd made the point that the West Indies innings had come to a bit of a standstill after the first ten overs, and that India had a chance to catch up. To continue the point, Windies made 40 runs between overs 11-20; India knocked off 62 for the loss of Dravid in the same span of time, to stay ahead of the ask and negate, to a degree, the loss of three wickets.
- 157/4 in 30
Lara's bowling problems intensified during this phase Dwayne Smith collected one official, then two official, warnings in three deliveries for running right down the middle of the pitch.
Elsewhere, with the power plays over and done with, the Windies captain spread the field and the two batsman promptly throttled down, looking to play the gaps, work the singles and twos and motor along without taking too many chances.
Against that Yuvraj, whose physical fitness has been as dodgy as his batting has been sublime, began showing early signs of problems with his left leg, clearly limping as he turned at the end of taking a single. In the 23rd over, Mohammad whom Lara had switched around to the opposite end an over earlier preyed on that problem with a superb delivery, flighted and looped with a lot of revs on the wrong one.
Yuvraj came down the track, but his footwork was not of the best; he was nowhere to the pitch of the ball as it landed and curved in, between swinging bat and out of position body, to hit leg stump (130/4; 26/30 Yuvraj).
Much of this session was about Lara using the tight ring field to shut down singles when Kaif got on strike, and spreading the men out again when Sehwag got to the business end to cut off the big hits a ploy that papered over, to an extent, the Windies' lack of quality bowlers in this game.
For Sehwag, this has been a test of resilience more than anything else. On paper, there is nothing in the bowling to challenge him, but against that, his form has been in the dumps for a long while now, his best shots are not yet firing, and he is being forced to eke out a living where once, he commanded the field.
Couple that with the knowledge that there is only Raina to follow, and that he needs to bat through this innings if India is to win, and Sehwag here is as much under the hammer as is Kaif, who at the other end continued to work his way back into something approaching top form.
India made 45 during this phase (the Windies had made 30) and, as far as runs go, have the ask under cover with 157/4 on the board and just 99 more to get off 20 overs. To get there, though, will take a 10-over association at over four an over by this pair another wicket, and it will be India sweating big time.
- 197/7 in 40 overs
Kaif undid all his hard work with the softest of dismissals in the 32nd over. The Jerome Taylor delivery was just about ordinary, on line and length; Kaif made the error of stepping into a punch even before the ball had really left the bowler's hand, ended up meeting the ball on the follow through of the bat, and patted it gently to Chris Gayle who Lara, in keeping with his policy of shutting down singles for Kaif, was standing close at cover (12/26; India 170/5).
The dismissal also underlined another factor behind India's recent poor display. At the height of its run, the team had shown consistency in partnerships, with successive batsmen building stands and carrying the innings through a particular phase.
Against that, on this tour, they have missed such consistency; too often, batsmen have gotten in, gotten set and gotten out often in careless fashion. Couple that with problems with recurring uncertainty in the opening slot, IMHO needless experimentation with the number three slot, the inability of both Dhoni and Pathan to adapt to slower, lower conditions and make runs at any kind of speed the team has too many strikes against it for success (None of this is to take away from the captaincy, fielding, disciplined bowling and controlled batting the Windies has brought to the party).
Talking of captaincy, it was interesting to see Lara put a silly point under Raina's nose as soon as the youngster walked out to bat. It is not like Raina is particularly susceptible to the bat-pad dismissal; it was more a pressure tactic, and by pushing the fielder squarer than normal, to an almost very-silly mid off, Lara forced Raina to play Gayle with the shut bat face on the on side, and cut down the flowing drives that left hander is so good at pulling off.
It is this kind of tactical nous Lara, with his experience, has brought to the contest that his less experienced opponent appears to have not yet acquired; this, among other things, has contributed to the difference thus far between the two teams.
Meanwhile, Raina's calmness under pressure has been a standout feature of his early displays. Time and again, he has been able to come out under pressure, absorb a quiet period of play, watch the ask rate mount to almost impossible positions, continue ticking the runs along and accelerate at just the right moment.
That is another facet that has fallen away of late not for the first time in this series, the youngster seemed to be feeling the pressure; not for the first time, he plonked a foot down the track, nowhere along the line of a delivery angling across him, flailed at it as it went outside his off, and got the thick top edge through to the keeper the second time in two innings he has been dismissed in this fashion, though in the previous game the same hit had gone to slip (2/14; 180/6).
Amusingly Sehwag, who has had his fair share of silly dismissals of late, looked livid at the dismissal; the silver lining here being that the vice captain here has shown a lot of character, batting on while wickets fell at the other end, curbing his natural game and batting in the fashion he reckoned the game, and the situation, demanded.
Many of his best shots remain tucked in the cupboard; while the bat speed has improved, it is yet to be near his best; his fleetness between wickets remains suspect, but he seems to have his head screwed on the right way again could well be a flash in the pan, or an indication that he is slowly pulling himself back up by the bootstraps; either way, you'll know by next Friday.
Like Raina, Sehwag repeated an earlier mistake and paid a heavy price. Once before in this series, he has stepped into a slower delivery (from Bravo, that time) and looked to play the drive on the rise that clears cover. Now, as he did then, Lara had Gayle, easily the tallest fielder in the side, posted in that key position; now, as then, Sehwag hit just that touch too early and once more, Gayle timed his jump to a nicety, holding with both hands well over his head (95/103; India 189/7).
It was a dismissal plotted by the captain and carried out by his preferred fielder for the job, but it owes as much to Taylor who, having been carted around by the same batsman in his first spell and clearly under the pump, produced the perfect slower delivery, bowling with the conventional grip and only at the moment of release rolling his wrist just a bit to take the pace off.
At the end of 40 overs, West Indies had made 173/4; India by contrast has 197/7. West Indies made 82 in the last ten; India only needs to make 59. The fatal error by the batting side, though, has been in squandering wickets at regular intervals and in the final analysis, even against an under-strength bowling lineup, that is apt to cost them dearly.
- 236 all out
Harbhajan Singh showed up his senior colleagues with a head-down, calm display at the death, knocking the ball around and seizing on every chance to find the fence.
In the 44th over, thus, he swung a low full toss from Bravo over midwicket for a fence; later in the over he beat a desperately diving Chattergoon to find the long on fence. An over later, he again picked on Bravo, stepping to leg to make room and carving the bowler inside out through extra cover.
In the 46th, however, he looked to loft Mohammad's slower, flighted delivery over the infield and Ian Bradshaw, on the field as substitute, further underlined the difference between the two sides, racing in off the fence and diving forward to take a beauty millimeters off the turf (230/8; 26/33 Harbhajan).
Off the very next ball, Munaf Patel swung the bowler against the turn, failing to pick the googly; Chattergoon this time came running in off the line from midwicket and held a good catch at knee height on the fly (0/1; 231/9).
With the runs-to-deliveries equation mounting and partners running out, Agarkar went for broke, swinging the first ball of the 49th over to deep midwicket to hole out, giving the West Indies a win by 19 runs.
It was a magical moment for Brian Lara two back to back victories on his home ground, in what he says will be his last appearance here. That he pulled it off with a largely reserve team was icing on the cake and a tribute to the way he has led, and the way the team has come together as one to back their captain up.
At the start of this series it was a case of Come back Brian, all is forgiven; to his credit, Lara has taken the selectors at their word, and done them proud.
The 1-4 result was an apt reflection of the difference between the two sides; India never really wrapped its collective head around the altered conditions and get a viable game plan going; the side batted as if it were still playing on the true, firm wickets of the subcontinent. Compounding that factor was an indisciplined bowling performance, especially by the likes of Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel, that further added to the problems.
India now faces a double task: It needs, in the near future, to shrug off the failures and get its mind on the Test series to come; one in which a resurgent West Indies team threatens on home territory. In the longer run, it needs to recraft its one day plan while working on individual members to get them back where they need to be, form-wise.
It's going to be the heck of an ask the only good thing going for the Indian team in this situation is that if it had to stumble, better now than just heading into the World Cup. In that sense, this wakeup call could well be the best thing to happen for captain, for players, for the coach, and for the selectors.
For the West Indies, the situation is exactly reversed. Not so long ago, nothing was going right. Coach Bennet King was being investigated; the team was losing by rote; dissent was rife; the senior players seemed more intent on getting their financial bases covered than going out there and playing their hearts out for the team cause.
It's all turned around, in almost magical fashion (it's a lesson, too, perhaps that in this game, triumph and defeat are cyclical). Brian Lara looks hungrier and craftier than he had in earlier avatars. The team has come together and is clicking as a unit. The bowlers have shown impeccable discipline, the batsmen have gotten themselves into form ahead of the Tests and overall, there is a buzz about the squad that looks ominous for the visitors.
West Indies innings:
- 52/1 in 10
It is strange how in one day cricket, one moment can make a huge difference to the eventual outcome the apocryphal 'You just dropped the World Cup, son' quip by Steve Waugh being merely the most famous.
Rahul Dravid won the toss, opted to rest the off color Irfan Pathan and to bowl first. Sreesanth produced a good delivery with the second ball of the innings, on three quarter length and banged in to get extra lift off the deck.
Chris Gayle stepped back into his crease and flayed at it, the extra bounce defeated the shot and found the top edge and Dhoni, with a regulation overhead catch to complete, managed merely to palm it over his head to the third man fence for four.
From then on, Gayle rode his power, and his luck, in a flat out assault on Sreesanth. The fourth ball of the first over was the same shot again, but this time the batsman got on top of the delivery and blazed it through point.
The first ball of the third over saw Gayle hitting against the angle across him, trusting to power and timing to loft the all wide of mid off and to the fence; to the next ball he was up on his toes, hammering the ball up and over point.
The fifth over began with a slower one from Sreesanth that Gayle picked early and slammed back over the bowler's head; later in the over, he flayed at an away going delivery, got the thick outer edge and Munaf Patel at wide third man, with the ball covered, flubbed the fielding and let it through to the fence for four more.
At the five over mark, the West Indies had made 27/1 of which Gayle had contributed six boundaries. At that point, none of the other batsmen had contributed a single run to the total.
Chattergoon, the other opener, lasted just one ball. Agarkar opened with a lovely delivery, swinging across the left hander and landing just outside off on length. The batsman opted to cover up and let it go, then grinned in sheer embarrassment as the ball jagged back off the seam, on a grassy deck affording some early movement, and clipped the top of off stump.
Sarwan walked into a good spell from Agarkar, that kept him tied down for all of 13 deliveries before a pushed single finally got him off the mark.
The Windies made four changes to the lineup, opting to give untried players a go in the dead rubber. India made two changes, and both indicated an urgent change of tactics Robin Uthappa came into the side as opener, clearly to cover for the out of form Virender Sehwag who now finds himself batting below Raina; the dropping of Ramesh Powar indicates the Indians who had thanks to recent successes on the chase felt confident of going in with a batsman less have had reason to rethink that attitude, and feel the need for an extra batsman as cover.
Munaf Patel took over from the luckless Sreesanth (3-0-25-0), and in tandem with Agarkar, restored some sanity to the proceedings but Gayle, reprieved on 0 and lucky to survive a couple of close LBW shouts off Agarkar, ensured the bowlers didn't have it all their way, going up on his toes to carve Agarkar through point, then coming down the wicket to smear Patel through the wide mid on region in the 9th over.
The 50 came up in the 9th over, with Gayle contributing 33 (8 fours) while, at the other end Sarwan, lucky to see an edge fly wide of a diving Raina at second slip off Agarkar, was content to nudge, push, slice and prod his way along.
An early problem for India created entirely by shoddy catching and fielding is the pressure on the bowling. The side is already a bowler short; Sreesanth has come in for severe tap it sets up a situation where the non-regulars have to contribute more than 10 good overs, and through this series, Dravid hasn't used his irregulars enough to give them the form, or confidence, to step into this breach.
Dravid has opted to delay the power play, looking to stem the flow of Gayle's hitting. Trick is when does he use it, and what bowling options will he have on hand at the time?
- 92/2 in 20
This phase was all about the Indians looking to slow the game down, defuse the Windies charge and claw their way back into the game.
The power plays were held back; Dravid opted for an in-out field and brought on Harbhajan Singh in the 13th over, teaming him with Virender Sehwag in the 14th.
Ajit Agarkar had again proved inspirational, with a first spell of 6-1-18-1 that worked as an antidote to Sreesanth's being put under the hammer; against Gayle, where Sreesanth went for 24 off 18, Agarkar gave just five in 11, of which one scoring shot was a boundary.
Sehwag interestingly looked to toss the ball up more than he usually does, give it more revs and look for turn on a wicket that afforded purchase, and which gripped and slowed the ball just enough to interest that brand of spin.
Gayle initially looked to take on Harbhajan, coming down the track in the bowler's second over, looking to waft him over long on; he failed though to get to the pitch of the flighted delivery and only managed to carve it off his thick outer edge with the ball dropping between point and cover.
From that point on, the left handed opener opted to stay back, opting to nudge the spinners around rather than go for the big hits.
With the run rate successfully slowed down, Dravid opted for the first of two optional power plays in the 17th over. It was a make-or-break move, and the single notable reason it worked for the bowling side is the conspicuous lifting of the fielding standards most notably, in the 18th over, Sarwan's attempts to take a single off Sehwag and get Gayle on strike were foiled by very good work in the close field.
Gayle broke the shackles in the 20th over, going after Sehwag (3-1-5-0 at that point), with successive fours with a straight sweep, followed by a reverse. The latter brought him his 51 off 60 deliveries with 10 fours. A ball later he was gone, as Sehwag bowled one quicker and flatter to defeat the attempted slog to the on side and crash into the stumps (90/2; Gayle 51/61).
And in walked Brian Lara, for what he says could be his last ODI on his home ground into an intriguing situation with spinners operating ande the power plan on. An outer edge got him off the mark with a single behind slip.
This phase produced 40 runs for the loss of Gayle; India managed to drag the run rate down, from 5.2 after 10 to 4.58 and in the process, have not only gotten rid of 4 irregular overs, but also gotten through four power-play overs.
- 122/2 in 30
Harbhajan Singh was a touch below his usual tight, restrictive self, but Virender Sehwag compensated with a fine display of controlled off spin to give India considerable control in the middle phase of the innings.
The two spinners in tandem provided Dravid breathing space to use up his second power play, immediately after the first one ended in the 21st over, getting through the crucial overs before Brian Lara could really settle down.
Neither Lara now Sarwan negotiated this period with any real comfort; the only sign of the left-handed skipper's majesty was in the 25th, when he carved Harbhajan, sticking his front foot out, letting the ball come past it and onto his bat, through cover point.
The West Indies were on 107/2 at the halfway mark with that four; Dravid, who on the day handled his bowlers way better than he has thus far in the series, switched Harbhajan off after a spell of 7-0-33-0, and brought back Sreesanth, allowing the seamer the luxury of getting back into the game at a point when neither batsman was really looking to attack.
Sreesanth's run of bad luck continued when a well directed slower ball in the 29th over, banged down with some power in the shoulders, saw Lara staying back looking to run it down. The ball glided off the bat face, in the air and dangerously close to the glove of a diving Dhoni. In the next over, Lara just made his ground on a tight run, and the cheer from his home crowd as the green light flashed would have done a century proud.
Sehwag ended the session with his 9th over, keeping the control going and turning in immaculate returns of 9-0-25-1; despite six power play overs in this phase, the Windies managed a mere 30 runs during these ten overs, bringing their run rate down to 4.12.
Against that, Sarwan is looking a lot more comfortable; Lara is not yet in top nick, but as he showed in the previous game, the change up in his game can come at any point, and the Windies still have eight wickets in hand to make a good push. On balance, though, India has the slightest of edges at this point and much could hinge on whether Yuvraj Singh can match Sehwag's spell with the ball.
- 173/4 in 40
At the end of his spell, Rahul Dravid raced up to high-five Virender Sehwag apt comment on a spell of 10-0-29-1 that was characterized by immaculate control and much thought (the way he varied his pace and line to Lara, constantly keeping him off balance, would have been exemplary coming from a regular bowler; from a part-timer, it was quite remarkable).
It was a spell that got India out of jail already a bowler short, the Indians had the further disadvantage of one of their mainline bowlers taking severe tap early. But once Sehwag squeezed out ten overs at under three runs per over with the bonus of taking out the big-hitting Gayle, it immediately opened up a comfort zone for Dravid. And, it dragged the run rate from a healthy 5.2 at the start of the innings, to under 4 an over by the end of his spell.
Sreesanth helped the good work along in his second spell, bowling with control and interesting variations of pace that kept Sarwan quiet and more to the point, kept an increasingly impatient Lara from coming after him.
Once Sehwag ended his spell, Dravid turned not to Yuvraj who IMHO could have come in at a time in the game when the Windies were not yet ready to accelerate, and produced a few tight overs but to Munaf Patel, for a two-seam attack.
Sarwan produced yet another 50 for the batsman who has been in good form thus far. It was, though, the least authentic of his scores: while he did well to put his head down and grind it out, the batsman at no time took charge of the innings and exercise any sort of control on the bowling, and that put the burden of run-scoring squarely on his partners Gayle and Lara, adding noticeably to the pressure the latter was under.
Sreesanth in the 35th over ended the right hander's tenure with a straight ball, changing the pace down. Sarwan, needing to get a move on, came waltzing down the track, looking to clear room and swing through, was beaten for line and reduced pace, swung all around the ball and was bowled (52/97; 137/3; Sarwan 61 dot balls, and just one four).
Dwayne Bravo, who has had an inspirational run with ball and bat in the last couple of games, came out ahead of Wavell Hinds as the Windies attempted to get the innings back in gear.
Sreeesanth did well in his comeback spell, five overs producing 21 runs and a wicket. He was replaced by Harbhajan in the 37th, with two overs left of his quota, and Lara immediately went after the off spinner, feet twinkling in a dance that ended with a clean strike over the bowler's head to clear the sightscreen.
Lara's innings was an essay in frustration. Clearly, the batsman wanted to turn it on for his home crowd; as clearly, the indifferent pace of the pitch wasn't suiting his play.
It is not often that he looks ugly out in the middle but today, he was just that, flailing and grimacing as deliveries stopped on the track and came through after his shot had been completed, or rolling through under the bat.
The knock was punctuated with some indifferent running; a bad call for a second, and a stumble mid-pitch, brought his farewell ODI knock on home ground to a close. The Harbhajan Singh ball had been played to deep backward point, the second run was always going to be tight and when Lara slipped on the turn and stumbled momentarily before running through, that fractional delay gave the keeper time to wreck the stumps (165/4; Lara 36/63 with 39 dot balls, one four and one six).
A day earlier, at the 40 over mark, India had made 160/4 in 40; Windies managed 188/ at that phase. Here the Windies, batting first this time, has managed 173/4. The session produced 51 runs for the loss of Lara; the run rate has crept back up to 4.32 and with Bravo and Hinds in the middle and Smith to follow, the Windies have the platform for a push towards a 235-250 score that should challenge India despite the chasing side going in with a batsman more.
One facet that has become evident during the last couple of overs, and which could impact on the Indian chase, is that the pitch noticeably slows down once the sun gets to work; the softer ball just does not come on to bat fluidly enough to permit free-flowing strokeplay.
This, note, is the same track on which the previous ODI was played. It was slow then, too more so in the second half of the second innings. In that game, though, the Indian bowlers and fielders did their cause no good with a shoddy display that, in tandem with a little gem from Lara, cost them the game. Here, the seamers have used the conditions much better, relying on changes of pace to add to the questions the pitch asks, and that has been reflected in a run rate that started off on speed and got slower with each passing over.
The bowling and fielding has, after a sluggish start, been very controlled thus far way better than during the last couple of games. The one negative outside of the Dhoni drop and the Munaf fumble has been a plethora of wides (12 wides, three no balls) that have given away more extra runs, and overs, than India could afford.
- 255/6 in 50
In looking for answers, Rahul Dravid had a day earlier suggested that maybe the team needed to revise its approach in the second half of its innings; that maybe with the pitch slowing down, the batsmen especially at the death needed to look more for the singles and twos to keep the score moving, rather than try for the elusive bit hits.
Here, he had a good, up-close view of how it needed to be done, as Bravo and Hinds eschewed for the most part the big hits, and pushed them along with frenetic push and run play that scattered the field and kept the runs coming.
Harbhajan Singh ended his spell in the 41st over (5 runs) his 0/52 easily the most expensive he has been all tour. Through his spell, the offie looked like he just wasn't switched on enough for the game almost as if he were going through the motions where, in the earlier games, he had looked like he really enjoyed the challenge of bowling to a side that, outside of Lara's mayhem in his final over of the fourth ODI, seemed unable to figure out how to play him.
Sreesanth, in the 42nd, went for eight without either batsman trying anything fancy; Dravid yet again painted himself into a little corner, with 8 overs to go and with Agarkar having four, Patel 3 and Sreesanth one exactly the ask, but with no buffer built in to compensate for any one of the bowlers getting tap.
Th 43rd over should have produced a wicket. Agarkar, coming back, produced a good slower ball on full length; Bravo chipped and Uthappa, coming in off the fence at midwicket, got it in both hands and spilt a relatively simple take. The over produced 8, when it should by rights have yielded a wicket, and India's catching had let them down again.
An inside out loft off a slower ball from Sreesanth that split the difference between cover and mid off produced a rare boundary; coupled with singles and the occasional hard run twos, the Windies kept the momentum going with 9 in the 44th; Sreesanth ended with 1/62 off his 10, 37 coming off his last seven (24 off his last 3, to go with the 25 that came off his first three).
Getting consistent reverse, Agarkar pulled it back a bit with a tight 45th that produced just three halfway through the slog, Windies had made it to 206/4.
Munaf went for 7 in the first five deliveries of the 46th, before Bravo smeared the last ball, a misdirected one that gave some width outside off, through point for four to get 11 in the over and undo Agarkar's hard work.
By this point, both batsmen were finding range on their shot; the singles were replaced by twos, and every error pounced on. Thus, when Agarkar produced a swinging full toss in the 47th, Hinds set himself and carted it through the midwicket region for another four, spoiling an over that ultimately went for 9.
The problem of not using irregular bowlers early on became compounded around this period. Munaf Patel, not really on song at any stage in this innings, had to continue. He dragged the first ball of the 48th halfway down the pitch; Hinds again set himself nicely, waited for it come on, and carted it wide of midwicket for a four to start the over and put the bowler under the pump; a ball later, Bravo backed a half step to leg, created some room and played an exquisite cover drive, followed by a chip that put the midwicket fielder under pressure and produced two more. The pressure really told on the fielders, producing fumbles and ragged throws, one of which allowed Bravo a second run that got him to his second 50 in succession (51/37 with just six dot balls, 18 singles, 10 twos and three fours). The over produced 14, and the bowler, by this point looking completely out of it, still had the 50th to bowl.
For once, Hinds' bid to get under a low-dipping full toss from Agarkar and power it over the infield came to grief, the batsman managing to pick out Sehwag on the fence in the 49th. The over produced 6 runs and a wicket, ending a fine spell of 10-1-44-2.
Munaf came on for the final over and Bravo promptly stepped to leg again, and drove inside out through extra cover off the first ball. With his third ball, Munaf snuck a yorker under Dwayne Smith's flailing bat as the batsman came down looking to on drive. 9 in the over, 1/64 for Patel and, thanks largely to a brilliant 62/44 from Bravo who paced his knock to a nicety, the West Indies managed 82 from the final ten overs.
Chasing 256 on this track is going to be tough; ironically, the one thing that could make the task a touch easier is a flier at the start, before the ball softens but India has Sehwag batting down the order this time.