2nd ODI: India’s World Cup aspirants struggle as West Indies level series

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India’s World Cup aspirants struggle as West Indies level series

NEW DELHI: The batting audition of India’s World Cup aspirants did not go as planned on a bouncy track at the Kensington Oval. Hosts West Indies levelled the three-match series 1-1 with a convincing six-wicket victory over India in the second ODI on Saturday.

The match was highlighted by superb bowling performances from Romario Shepherd and Gudakesh Motie, while the Indian middle-order struggled to cope with the pace, bounce, and turn, leading to a lacklustre total of 181 in 40.5 overs on a rain-marred day.

As it happened: India vs West Indies, 2nd ODI
Chasing the modest target, West Indies had their nervous moments as well, facing a spirited spell from Shardul Thakur (3/42 in 8 overs). However, skipper Shai Hope (63 not out, 80 balls) anchored the innings brilliantly and found an able ally in the young Keacy Carty (48 not out, 65 balls). The duo’s unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership of 91 runs ensured a comfortable victory for West Indies in just 36.4 overs.

The Indian team management’s decision to rest regular skipper Rohit Sharma and batting stalwart Virat Kohli raised eyebrows, and it soon backfired as their absence exposed the frailties in the middle-order. None of the middle-order batters could withstand the relentless assault from the West Indies bowlers, leaving more questions than answers for the team management ahead of the prestigious ICC ODI World Cup.

West Indies skipper Shai Hope opted to field first after winning the toss, anticipating the pitch to offer significant assistance to the bowlers. His decision turned out to be a masterstroke as his bowlers maintained a relentless intensity throughout the innings. India got off to a promising start with an opening stand of 90 runs between the explosive Ishan Kishan (55 off 55 balls) and the talented Shubman Gill (34 off 49 balls). However, the middle-order collapse that followed shattered India’s hopes of posting a formidable total.

The Indian middle-order, which was missing the experienced duo of Sharma and Kohli, crumbled under pressure when faced with a fiery spell from the West Indies pacers. The likes of Jayden Seales (1/28 in 6 overs), Alzarri Joseph (2/35 from 7 overs), and Romario Shepherd (3/37 in 8 overs) utilised the bouncy pitch to great effect, leaving the Indian batsmen in a tangle.

The turning point of India’s innings came when Kishan, who looked good during his half-century, tried to take on Motie’s spin and ended up offering a catch to Alick Athanaze at point. Following Kishan’s dismissal, the Indian middle-order imploded, losing five wickets for just 23 runs in a mere 7.2 overs. Stand-in skipper Hardik Pandya (7 off 14 balls) struggled against the short-ball tactics and eventually succumbed to a pull shot, handing an easy catch to Brandon King at mid-wicket.

To keep the left-right combination intact, Sanju Samson (9 off 19 balls) and Axar Patel (1 off 8 balls) were promoted up the order. However, both players found it challenging to counter the grip, turn, and bounce generated by the spinners Motie and Yannic Cariah (1/25 in 5 overs). Samson’s vulnerability against leg-spin was once again exposed when he edged one to the wicketkeeper while attempting a loose shot.

Axar, known more for his white-ball batting prowess than his bowling, was expected to stabilise the innings. However, he fell victim to a brilliant delivery from Shepherd that brushed his gloves before nestling into Shai Hope’s gloves.

The inept batting effort left the Indian team in despair as they finished with a meagre total of 181, well below par on a challenging wicket.

Despite the intermittent rain delays, the West Indies bowlers showcased relentless determination and discipline, ensuring there were no lapses in their efforts. The victory marked an end to West Indies’ chain of nine successive bilateral defeats since December 2019, and it was a much-needed boost for the Caribbean side.

For India, this defeat has raised concerns about their middle-order vulnerabilities and selection decisions, particularly the rationale behind resting key players with only a few months remaining for the World Cup. The team management will have to reassess their strategies and possibly consider different combinations in the upcoming matches to find the right balance before the mega event.
(With inputs from PTI)

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