It was a rare occasion of the Indian lower-order batsmen scripting a memorable finish as the host beat West Indies by four wickets in the third and final one-day international at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Sunday night.
The thrilling victory, ensured with eight balls to spare, drove India to a come-from-behind 2-1 series win. This was Team India’s 10th consecutive one over Windies, as the host overhauled the target of 316 set by the visitor.
Indian openers’ success story in 2019 continued with Rohit Sharma and K.L. Rahul enjoying their time to forge a 122-run partnership.
Rohit made an elegant 63-ball 63, dotted with eight fours and a soaring six over mid-wicket, before he was caught behind off Holder after reaching his sixth half-century of the calendar year.
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Rahul, who cut handsomely and played some delightful shots on the leg side in his 89-ball 77, scored his third fifty of the year.
The wristy Karnataka batsman, who added 45 with skipper Virat Kohli, flicked Alzarri Joseph for a magnificent six over deep square leg before gloving the same bowler down the leg to the wicketkeeper.
Rahul’s departure brought Windies back in the game as Keemo Paul struck in consecutive overs while Sheldon Cottrell sent back Kedhar Jadhav cheaply.
Determined to take the series, Kohli worked the ball around effortlessly and exhibited some his favourite strokes, including the cover drive and pull to collect fours.
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Kohli, who made a fluent 85 (81b, 9×4), found an able partner in Ravindra Jadeja (39 not out off 31) to add 58 runs in 44 balls to narrow the chase.
Kohli played one onto his own stumps off Paul when India required 30 off 23 which added more suspense to the chase. However, Jadeja and Shadul Thakur (17 off 6 balls) hung in there to see India home.
Earlier, put into bat, Evin Lewis and Shai Hope, who relied on his timing and placement in his 50-ball 42, batted with restraint to put up 57-run opening stand. Lewis ambitiously lifted Ravindra Jadeja to be caught at long off. Mohammed Shami bowled Hope, who missed the line, as the pressure mounted on the host.
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Roston Chase, who must have thanked wicketkeeper Pant for dropping him on zero, and Shimron Hetmyer batted smartly to pace up the innings by gathering 62 runs.
Hetmyer, who scored a 33-ball 37, had some close shaves and faltered when he pulled debutant Navdeep Saini straight to fine-leg.
The clever Saini spectacularly bowled Chase with a yorker in his next over and Windies needed to consolidate at 144 for four in the 32nd over.
Nicholas Pooran and Keiron Pollard paced the innings exemplarily and targeted bowlers with a plan to change the momentum to form a 98-ball 135-run partnership. It enabled Windies achieve a desired total.
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Indian witnessed a drift in fortune as it spilled six catches, including a handful by Pant, seemingly because of dew towards the end.
Pooran – who cut, pulled and drove brilliantly – smashed Saini for three fours as he scored his fifth half-century (89 off 64). The Trinidadian, who was dropped on 52 and 72 by Pant, was caught at deep extra-cover off Shardul Thakur.
Pollard was at his brutal best in his unbeaten 51-ball 74, containing three hits to the ropes and seven mighty ones over it, as the Windies plundered 77 runs in the last five overs.
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