Virat Kohli became the first Indian to score three successive ODI hundreds but his 38th hundred wasn’t enough to steer India home in the third one-dayer against the West Indies on Saturday.
Lack of support from the other end, after the Windies’ tail had built on Shai Hope’s impressive knock, meant the visiting team levelled the series with a convincing 43-run win at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here.
When India began its chase of 284, a combination of slowish surface and a long tail meant the reliable top three had to fire for the hosts to overhaul the target.
However, the Windies outfit, inspired from the tie in Visakhapatnam three nights earlier, continued to strike regularly right through the chase to prevent the India skipper from running away with the game.
Captain Jason Holder gave Windies a perfect start in the second over, knocking down Rohit Sharma’s middle-stump with a full-length ball that moved away. The stunned silence in the stands turned into the loudest roar of the day when skipper Kohli walked out.
Kohli glanced Holder for a four to open his account, hinting that he was not content with scores of 140 and 157 not out, coming into the game. Shikhar Dhawan, having made little contribution so far, came into his element with a few delightful drives and cuts off the pacers.
As long as the Delhi dazzlers were driving the chase, India looked to be in control. However, once Dhawan missed a sweep off Ashley Nurse — whose cameo with the willow at the death had propelled the Windies to 283 — and was adjudged leg-before in the 18th over, Windies sensed an opportunity.
Debutant Fabian Allen — who came in for leggie Devendra Bishoo — didn’t let Kohli or Ambati Rayudu dominate his left-arm spin and Nurse too kept it tight.
With Rayudu looking comfortable against spin, rookie left-arm pacer Obed McCoy was re-introduced and Rayudu played on to the stumps. Rishabh Pant started with a flurry of boundaries but gloved Nurse to wicketkeeper Hope in the 32nd over.
Kohli was in the nineties by then, having anchored the chase well. However, he knew that with India still 110 runs adrift, he had to score a majority of them. When M.S. Dhoni edged Holder to the ’keeper to continue his mediocre run with the willow, the signs were ominous.
No wonder then that Kohli’s celebration upon reaching the three-figure mark with a single off Holder to deep backward square was subdued. With 66 required off nine overs, Holder introduced veteran Marlon Samuels into the attack and the offie got the prize scalp of Kohli off his third ball.
Running out of overs and partners, Kohli took a calculated risk off a slog but missed the ball to be bowled. The writing was clearly on the wall and Windies finally ended India’s innings in the 48th over. The margin of victory underlined the importance of the ninth-wicket partnership between Nurse and Kemar Roach that changed the complexion of the game.
Jasprit Bumrah had reduced the visitors to 227 for eight in the 44th over, but the 56-run partnership off just 36 balls meant Windies registered a formidable total.
Nurse unleashed his attack, first on Yuzvendra Chahal in the 45th over and then on Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the penultimate. He was especially harsh on Bhuvneshwar, smashing 21 runs including three boundaries and a six over long-off.
Nurse’s knock meant Hope, who held the innings before being yorked by Bumrah, could afford a smile at the end despite missing his second successive hundred. With the series level, the teams head to Mumbai for the fourth match on Monday.
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