On a sticky wicket where the ball wasn’t coming onto the bat, India edged West Indies in a low-scoring encounter led by debutant Navdeep Saini’s three-wicket haul. India won by four wickets to spare after the Saini-led attack ensured West Indies wouldn’t cross 100 in the allotted overs. India did not exactly breeze the run-chase either, as they lost six wickets before managing to pull through with less than three overs remaining.
The difficult weather in Florida – overnight rains had dampened the wicket – made the pitch two-paced and after winning the toss, Virat Kohli had no hesitation to put West Indies in. His young bowlers paid back the skipper by reducing the Windies to 33/5 inside the first powerplay.
Washington Sundar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed the openers for ducks before Saini picked up two wickets, including that of the dangerous Nicholas Pooran, in two balls in his first over. Khaleel Ahmed sent Rovman Powell packing in his first over as West Indies capitulated.
Kieron Pollard, on a comeback trail, rescued them with a valiant 49 but India kept applying pressure through the left-arm spinners, Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. The run-rate barely rose upwards as skipper Carlos Brathwaite looked to give Pollard company and ended up wasting 24 balls for 9 runs before gifting a return catch to Krunal. Pollard added some respectability to the total in the end although 95 always seemed under par against this Indian line-up.
India began tentatively against West Indies’ new ball pair of Oshane Thomas and Sheldon Cottrell. Rohit Sharma was targeted with bouncers and he responded with fire. A top-edge off Thomas sailed over fine-leg for six soon after Cottrell had Dhawan trapped in front for one. Rohit continued to take on Sunil Narine and Cottrell but the mystery spinner had the last laugh as Rohit mishit a slog to long-on.
Rishabh Pant then threw caution to the wind and looked to slog sweep Narine first ball only to be caught in deep – a shot that will undoubtedly raise questions over his temperament again. Manish Pandey started his innings with a few crisp shots off Keemo Paul and Thomas but his innings was short-lived as Paul, a clever T20 customer, yorked him with a brilliant delivery.
Cottrell then struck a big nail on India’s head by removing the skipper. With the pitch being very two-paced, Cottrell bounced Kohli and the captain, an instinctive puller, went for a swipe across the line only to top-edge to mid-wicket.
India were still more than 25 runs away from a win at this point and it seemed like the Windies had an opening to claw their way back in. But Jadeja and Pandya combined in a short, effective partnership of 19 which reduced the bridge between the totals significantly. Pandya, though, was deceived by a corker from Paul with India less than ten runs away. But India did not stumble again and overhauled the target as a nerveless Sundar lofted Paul down the ground for a six to lead India to a win.