It was a win Mahendra Singh Dhoni desperately wanted, after India’s poor show in the World Twenty20, and the team delivered. But not before the West Indies gave them an almighty scare. Riding on the back of an authoritative century from Yuvraj Singh, India posted 339. This proved to be enough to squeeze out a 20-run win that gave India a 1-0 lead in the four-ODI series.
The bowling, bolstered by the return of Ashish Nehra, began well. Nehra prised out the big wicket of Chris Gayle, when the West Indian skipper tried to play a big pull shot and failed to connect properly. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (63) was his calm self at the top of the order and it was only a rash of wickets that put India in control.
At 250 for 7, with all the recognised batsmen dismissed, the West Indies were out of the game, or so India thought. A rearguard action that was scarcely believable showed India’s bowlers just what was possible if they took their eyes off the ball before the job was completely done. Wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and tail-ender Suleiman Benn went after the bowling, leaving the hosts with an eminently gettable 25 off 18 balls before Nehra stamped out the revival with two quick wickets.
“Most of the guys thought that we have won the game when they were seven wickets down but it was a mistake and hopefully we won’t repeat that,” Dhoni said. “It was more close than thought.” Dhoni’s firm warning to his team to guard against complacency would have been taken seriously, for had it not been for Yuvraj’s 12th ton, a 102-ball 131, India could easily have fallen short. “We rely a lot on him. He gets big runs for us in the middle order,” Dhoni said of Yuvraj. “Once he sets in, you hope for a big score. That’s what he’s doing. Once he’s set, he always gives us a good score with a very good strike rate.”
Gayle too was all praise for Yuvraj’s effort. “He batted really well and set up a good innings — on a small outfield and flat track it was difficult to contain him out there when he was on the go,” said Gayle. “You have to give credit to the way Yuvraj batted. He started really slow but that goes to show the power of Yuvraj.” India will look to keep the momentum going when they play the hosts in Sunday’s match.