West Indies level series on the back of superb Lendl Simmons knock

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08 Dec 2019 | 06:47 PM
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Nitin Fernandes

West Indies level series on the back of superb Lendl Simmons knock

The T20I series is now level at 1-1 with one match left to play.

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They hadn’t defeated India in seven successive T20Is. They had the lowest win/loss ratio (0.46), among all teams who have played 25+ T20Is since the 2016 World T20. They had won just one T20I out of 10 in 2019. The odds were stacked against them. But on Sunday at the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, West Indies showed us why you can never count out the world champions as they beat India by eight wickets!

Lendl Simmons was the star for the West Indies as he scored an unbeaten 67 from 45 deliveries. It was a déjà vu moment for India who will not have forgotten the Caribbean opener’s heroics during the semi-final contest between the two sides in the 2016 World T20.

In fact, there’s something about India that brings out the best in Simmons. In no other country does he average more than he does in India (52.66) in T20Is. If you consider a minimum of three innings, then he averages more against India (41.66) than any other team in the format too.

Simmons was well supported by the left-handed trio of Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran. A target of 171 wasn’t going to be easy on a pitch that was a touch slow and considering the fact that, since 2017, West Indies had successfully chased down a 160+ target just once in nine attempts in T20Is. But Lewis – another batsman who loves batting against India – and Simmons’ 73-run opening partnership set a near-perfect platform for the visitors.

When Lewis was dismissed on 30 by Washington Sundar, Hetmyer walked in to keep the left-right combination going. He hit three sixes during a 14-ball cameo which yielded 23 runs before a stunning catch from Virat Kohli at long-on saw him walk back to the pavilion.

Despite that piece of brilliance from the Indian captain, the hosts were left to rue missed opportunities in the field. In the fifth over of the innings, bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both Simmons and Lewis offered a catch each which were put down by Washington Sundar and Rishbah Pant respectively. Those two dropped chances turned out to be crucial in the end with both batsmen, especially Simmons, playing big roles in West Indies’ win.

Following Hetmyer’s dismissal, Pooran walked in and eased himself to an unbeaten 38 from only 18 balls as Kieron Pollard’s side chased down the target with 1.3 overs to spare.

Earlier, after being put into bat, India lost their first wicket in the fourth over as KL Rahul couldn’t build on from his performance in the first T20I. Then followed a surprise as Shivam Dube walked out to bat at number three ahead of Kohli who was the Player of the Match on Friday.

Although he started slowly, Dube showed the basis behind his promotion in the batting order by notching up his first T20 half-century. During his 30-ball 54, he struck seven boundaries and took a liking to the bowling of Pollard against whom he hit three consecutive sixes.

Meanwhile, India’s two big batting superstars – Rohit Sharma and Kohli – failed to kick on after getting starts. Rohit looked far from his best as he managed just 15 from 18 deliveries before being bowled by Jason Holder. 

West Indies spinner Khary Pierre was supreme during the Powerplay. Apart from dismissing Rahul, he conceded just 11 runs from two overs when the fielding restrictions were on. In fact, he has an economy rate of 6.6 between overs 1-6 in his T20 career which is excellent for a spinner.

The other spinner in the West Indian line-up, Hayden Walsh Jr., also was in fine form. He took two wickets and conceded just 28 runs from his four overs. It was Walsh Jr. who took the important scalp of Dube and, if not for that, the away team might have had to chase a much higher target.

The West Indian pacers also made crucial contributions, with Kesrick Williams and Sheldon Cottrell taking two and one wicket(s) respectively. But what was most impressive from the duo was their bowling at the death. In the last four overs, India managed to score just 26, out of which three were bowled by Williams and Cottrell.

For the hosts, Rishbah Pant played a good knock, scoring 33 not out from 22 balls, but the wicketkeeper-batsman didn’t get enough support from the other end during the death overs. A target of 171 was expected to be a tricky one for the West Indies, but in the end, the world champions eased to victory.

A main area of concern for India will be the difference in their recent records while batting first and batting second. Since 2018, when doing the latter, they have a win percentage of 82.3, but when they bat first, it’s just 50. With less than one year to go for the next World T20, it’s something they will want to improve on.

On the other hand, for the West Indies, this victory will come as a huge relief considering their poor run of results in the 20-over format recently. On Wednesday, the two teams will clash in the decider at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai – the same venue that hosted the memorable (unless you are Indian) semi-final contest during the 2016 World T20.

Brief Scores

India 170/7, 20 overs (Dube 54, Pant 33*, Walsh Jr. 2/28, Williams 2/30) lost to West Indies 173/2, 18.3 overs (Simmons 67*, Lewis 40, Pooran 38*) by eight wickets.

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