West Indies rebounded from a first round defeat to romp to as comprehensive an eight wicket victory over India as could have been achieved. It was a commanding performance at Sabina Park by the rejuvenated home side to level the Digicel Series 1-1 with two games to play.
After restricting the visitors to a modest 188 all out from 48.2 overs the Windies needed only 34.1 overs to get to 192 for 2 and atone for their 20 run loss on Friday at the same venue.
Runako Morton, the Nevisian right hander built not dissimilar to a middleweight boxer, registered his highest score against the Indians and led the run chase with 85 from 102 deliveries, hitting five fours and a solitary six which brought the game to a close well before the stipulated cut off time and as the afternoon sun was in it glory.
When the run chase commenced Chris Gayle, who lost the toss once again, was in no mood to muck around, he flayed the Indian bowlers for 64 from 46 balls inclusive of eight fours and two more which sailed beyond the boundary rope. In partnership with his newest opening partner, Morton, Gayle put the game completely out of the reach of India – the pair putting on 101 inside 16 overs.
It took a stunning catch on the long off boundary by Gautam Gambhir to curtail Gayle but Morton marched on until victory was formalized with a vicious six over long on and which was deposited into the George Headley Stand.
Earlier in the day the foundation for victory was laid by some superb swing bowling from Ravi Rampaul in association with Jerome Taylor and Dwayne Bravo. Rampaul came into the final XI in place of Lionel Baker and the right arm Trinidadian seamer broke the back of the Indian batting with 4 for 37 from his quota of ten overs including two scalps in his very first over – the second of the innings – by which time India had been tottering at 7 for 3. It was Rampaul’s second four wicket haul in ODIs and his best figures yet.
Taylor (9.2-0-35-3), with whom Rampaul shared the new ball, made the initial breakthrough by having opener Dinesh Karthik caught behind for 4 and Bravo entered into the fray later on to pick up three for 26 from his nine overs.
After the Taylor penetration, Rampaul then sent back Gambhir and Rohit Sharma for ducks as the Windies started in domineering fashion and the Indians crumbled until a 101 run ninth wicket stand between Dhoni and the unlikely RP Singh (23 from 75 deliveries) got them out of the quagmire in which they found themselves in. Tellingly, only three Indian batsmen were able to attain double figure scores, their furthermost shortcoming on the day.
Prior to the Dhoni/Singh alliance there was a brief period of resuscitation as Yuvraj Singh (35), Man of the Match in the previous game and Dhoni added 47 for the 4th wicket but then they lost another five wickets in quick succession until they were down to 82 for 8.
Captain Dhoni aided by staunch defensive play from number ten, RP, moved India to 183 for 9 before Bravo returned, with a heavily bandaged hand after being hit by a fierce Dhoni straight drive, to break the stand.
Dhoni’s 95 was a lone stand, the sort of knock a leader is called to play when his team is in as much difficulty as India were in. The right hander with dynamite wrists curtailed his preferred explosive style and manoeuvred the strike deftly and found an able ally in Singh who defended stoutly when it was needed and as he grew in confidence accumulated runs to aid his skipper through.
Despite Dhoni’s admirable innings, it was wholly inadequate as there were only negligible contributions from the other recognized batsmen and the West Indies needed purely to keep the momentum in their quarter to secure the series levelling victory which was achieved without any hints of alarm.