A moment of pure bliss lit up Amit Mishra’s face as Suresh Raina dived smartly to complete the catch at first slip. Denesh Ramdin, who had played a stellar knock in the first match, departed, and with him went West Indies’ hopes of chasing down India’s total of 263.
While it was the perseverance of spinners Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja that sealed the deal for India on a pitch that slowed down as the game progressed, it was the return to form of Virat Kohli (62) that should please them more.
It was full of circumspection, especially outside the off-stump, but it might have signalled his return to form.
However, it could have wrong for the Indians. When Dwayne Smith (97) was blasting away with his characteristic lofts and punches and stitching an assured partnership (74 runs) with Kieron Pollard, it seemed certain that they would pull off a second shock victory in as many matches. But it was not to be.
First, Pollard went, inside edging Mishra to see his stumps castled and then a devilish in-swinger from man of the match Mohammed Shami, who also produced crucial breakthroughs, sent Smith back with the score at 170/3 in the 36th over.
The Windies would still have hoped to attain victory but last match’s hero Marlon Samuels played a peculiar knock as Mishra tied him down with his flighted leg-spinners. When he went, trying to accelerate and then Ramdin followed, the Windies required 75 runs from 58 balls and a collapse ensued as India romped home by 48 runs.
Earlier, the Kotla track did not live up to its promise of being livelier than normal, but Virat lived up to his. The best knock of the innings came from Raina, and his partnership with Virat (105 off 115 balls) helped India reach a respectable score after some tight Caribbean bowling early on made it look like they were going to fall way short of a competitive total.
A late flourish by MS Dhoni (51 off 40) gave India the push they required in the death overs, but the highlight was Virat’s knock as he overcame immense pressure after a string of failures to stitch a composed, if slightly laboured, knock. Raina’s good touch also augurs well for India before the Australia series and World Cup next year.
Once again, the West Indies opening bowlers were right on the money as both Jerome Taylor and Ravi Rampaul bowled with accuracy and discipline as Shikhar Dhawan (1) made a horror return to Delhi.
Interestingly, Virat did not come out at the fall of the first wicket, and Ajinkya Rahane was joined by Ambati Rayudu. When Virat was finally joined by Raina in the 18th over, the Indians were precariously placed at 74/3.
After the beleaguered hometown hero finally found his touch, things changed. A delectable on-drive off Taylor early in his innings bore his signature and was a sign of things to come.