Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant rose to the occasion after India's top order failed, but Shimron Hetmyer made a mockery of that effort by smashing 139 off just 106 deliveries to help West Indies win the first ODI by eight wickets in Chennai on Sunday (December 15). While Hetmyer slammed 11 fours and seven sixes, the ever-reliable Shai Hope kept one end intact and only left the field when the job was done.
Asked to bat, India's top three couldn't contribute much but Iyer (88-ball 70) and Pant (71) showed tremendous composure and 114 runs for the fifth wicket. The two couldn't go on and convert it into a three-digit score but Kedar Jadhav played his role at the backend of the innings and led India to 287 for 8 on a sluggish Chepauk surface.
In reply, Hope and Hetmyer added 218 runs for the second wicket and aced the chase with that partnership. Hetmyer however couldn't stay till the very end but Hope carried on and remained unbeaten on 102 off 151 deliveries. West Indies crossed the line with 14 deliveries to spare.
Earlier, with Shikhar Dhawan out because of a knee injury, KL Rahul got an opportunity to open alongside Rohit Sharma. Both these openers belted West Indies bowlers all around the park in the final T20I in Mumbai but that was never going to be the case on the tricky Chennai surface. It took Sheldon Cottrell hardly few deliveries to realise that mixing up the pace is the right way to go at this venue and the left-arm paceman made batsmen's life extremely difficult in his opening spell.
The left-arm paceman first had Rahul (6) who was beaten by the lack of pace and ended up edging it to the mid-wicket fielder. Having scored six centuries in his last nine ODIs against West Indies, Virat Kohli announced his arrival with a solid drive down the ground for four. On the very next delivery, Cottrell once again opted for an off-cutter and Kohli, who was trying to guide it to third man, ended up dragging it back onto his stumps. In the matter of one over, India were reduced to 25 for 2 and the onus fell on the shoulders of two Mumbai lads to dig their team out of trouble.
Rohit and Iyer took their time and simply played out Cottrell's first spell. The duo started to open up once Hayden Walsh came into the attack and managed four boundaries in legspinner's first three overs. Skipper Kieron Pollard had to take him out of the attack and brought in Alzarri Joseph and Roston Chase. The move paid off as Joseph got rid of Rohit for 56-ball 36. The opener tried to pull him towards deep mid-wicket but was rushed by Joseph, ending up offering a simple catch to Pollard.
Having been reduced to 80 for 3, it was a perfect opportunity for Pant to take some time to settle in and play that one crucial knock for his team that everyone has been asking for ever since he made his ODI debut in 2018. The wicketkeeper-batsman showed no rush and started building the innings with Iyer who was well settled by then. The two focused more on ones and two and kept the scoreboard ticking. However, it didn't take them much time to get back into their characteristic gamestyle.
Both Iyer and Pant started going after West Indies bowlers, especially against Chase and forced him out of the attack. In the process, Iyer brought up his third consecutive half-century in ODIs - all against West Indies. Pant too got to his maiden ODI fifty in the very next over, and it was time to up the ante. Iyer tonked Chase for a maximum over deep mid-wicket but was dismissed by Joseph against the run of play. Apart from that six, the 25-year-old also slammed five fours during his stay in the middle. Pollard then had Pant caught at deep backward square leg and India lost both of their set batsmen before the start of the final powerplay.
Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja however ensured that there was no collapse as such, as the duo put on 59 runs for the sixth wicket. Jadhav in particular looked at his unusual best and scored vital runs in his own ways. The right-hander scored 40 off 35 balls before becoming Keemo Paul's first victim. Jadeja too was run out for 21 and India could only manage 19 runs in the final three overs. For West Indies, Cottrell, Paul and Joseph took two wickets each, while Pollard ended up with an important scalp of Pant.
In response, Sunil Ambris (9) commenced the innings with a couple of flicks but was pinned right in front of the stumps by Deepak Chahar in the fifth over. In came Hetmyer who straightaway started going after Indian bowlers and didn't allow any spinner to settle in. The left-hander enjoys batting against India and once again did almost all the scoring in the partnership. Meanwhile, Hope was happy to sit back and play the second fiddle. The wicketkeeper-batsman hardly took any risk and gave Hetmyer as much as strike as possible. Such was the impact of Hetmyer's knock that Hope was happy with operating at a strike rate of 55-56.
Indian captain Kohli tried all the tricks but couldn't stop Hetmyer who got to his fifty in as many deliveries, and just took off from there onwards. The 22-year-old smoked Jadeja for consecutive sixes after completing his half-century. The duo paced their partnership perfectly and always kept the required run rate in check. Kohli even brought back Chahar and Mohammed Shami for couple of overs but by then Hetmyer was already on the fifth gear. The left-hander went after Shami and got to his fifth ODI ton in the 33rd over. This was only his 38th ODI innings and no other West Indian has hit five centuries in this format in fewer innings.
Each boundary left their shoulders dropping further but Chahar kept on fighting and would have had Hetmyer if Iyer wouldn't have dropped a sitter at long on. Hetmyer then added insult to injury by slamming Jadeja for back-to-back sixes in his final over. The massacre finally came to an end in the 39th over when Hetmyer mistimed one straight into the hands of the long-on fielder and Iyer made no mistake this time. Having already completed his fifty, the onus was now on Hope to ensure that he stayed till the very end.
In the process, Hope brought up his seventh ODI ton with a six and four and despite looking boring, played his role to perfection. There wasn't much left to pounce on but Nicholas Pooran (29*) walked in at No. 4 and blasted Dube for three boundaries in the 48th over to finish the job for the visiting side.