hasemaster Virat Kohli falls short, for once – For once, the close to immortal Virat Kohli failed to ace a chase. It was one of the rarest of the rare occasions where despite a vintage Kohli century, India did not cross the finishe line.
Even as the Indian captain struck his third consecutive hundred of the series, the hosts went down to the West Indies by 43 runs at the Mahrashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Saturday.
Kohli struck a 119-ball 107 comprises 10 fours and a six but a collective bowling effort ensured that the West Indies bundled India out for 240 while chasing the visitors’ total of 283/9, thanks to Shai Hope’s well-compiled 95.
After India’s win in Guwahati followed by a tie in Visakhapatnam, the victory for the visitors in Pune has levelled the five-match series to 1-1 with the next ODI in Mumbai on Monday.
The chase boiled down to Kohli in the second over of the innings itself when opener Rohit Sharma failed to read West Indian captain Jason Holder’s beautiful outswinger, which opened the batsman up and uprooted the middle-stump.
Sharma’s partner Shikhar Dhawan, too, fell once again to an off-spinner after getting off to a promising start.
From thereon, it was Kohli’s battle all along as he anchored the innings by playing risk-free cricket, getting boundaries every now and then to ease the pressure.
Such has been Kohli’s control over his batting that he hardly delivered a false shot, a trait his partners could not resist.
Even as Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant and Mahendra Singh Dhoni went cheaply one after another, Kohli marched on.
And because of the frequent loss of partners, Kohli did not celebrate becoming the first Indian to score three straight ODI tons in his usual manner as he foresaw his team’s fate.
Eventually, Marlon Samuels bowled Kohli in the 42nd over with the target still more than 60 away, ending all hopes of an India victory. With Kohli home, it was a matter of a few overs for the West Indies to finish off the tail and register their first win of the tour.
Earlier, pacer Jasprit Bumrah emphasised how important he is to the Indian bowling department, leading from the front on his comeback with his fourth four-wicket haul to restrict West Indies to 289/9.
He wasn’t just the wrecker-in-chief for India but also the most economical bowler at 3.50 runs per over.
On the other hand, his comeback partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar turned out to be the most expensive bowler and returned with just one success while Khaleel Ahmed (1/65), Yuzvendra Chahal (1/56) and Kuldeep Yadav (2/52) contributed at different stages of the innings.
If not for one-drop Hope’s 95, the West Indies would have struggled to a respectable total.
Put into bat on a true wicket that aided pacers initially, West Indies got a good start as both the openers executed some horizontal shots to the fences.
Even as they read Kumar with ease, they struggled against the length balls of Bumrah.
But Chanderpaul Hemraj could not negate a sudden Bumrah bouncer that found the top edge of his bat. The ballooned towards fine leg and a running Dhoni grabbed it full stretched. Kieron Powell soon followed suit when he edged Bumrah with a sharp catch by Sharma.
West Indies’ hopes of a revival lay on Hope and he delivered the goods when it mattered. Hope was not just brutal in his strokeplay against Chahal and Yadav but also intelligent in rotating the strike.
He was part of two half-century stands – 56 with southpaw Shimron Hetmyer and 76 with Holder – for the fifth and the seventh wicket, respectively.
The in-form Hetmyer looked in his elements but he failed to capitalise on his start this time, getting stumped to Kuldeep.
Holder, on the other hand, played the supporting role to Hope, eventually becoming the sole victim of Bhuvneshwar.