Kohli, Dhoni half-centuries help India overcome middle-order stutter
MS Dhoni remained unbeaten on 56 off 61. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: For the second time in two games, India‘s middle-order vulnerability was exposed. In Southampton it were the Afghanistan spinners who strangled India and got breakthroughs, for the West Indies, their strength, their pacers rose to the occasion, led by Kemar Roach‘s tidy 3/36.

Between overs 21 and 30, India scored 51 and lost three wickets. Virat Kohli, became the fastest to 20000 international runs with a fourth consecutive half-century but couldn’t convert it into three figures. Struggling at 180 for 5 with the Indian skipper gone, it was left to MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya to give India a push. ALSO READ: Rohit unimpressed after dubious caught-behind decision

And this, right here, is where the Indian innings witnessed a turn with both batsmen adding 70 off 60. Dhoni, who in the previous match, received flak for his slow batting, lifted India with an unbeaten half-century to 268/7, 49 of which were scored in the final five overs. ALSO READ: Kohli fastest to 20000 international runs

India’s pattern in the first 25 overs was erringly similar to their approach against Afghanistan. Rohit Sharma was dismissed early to a dubious call and KL Rahul, having worked hard to get a start threw it away to a callous shot yet again. Kohli held up one end but Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav left it on their skipper and Dhoni to help India through their rebuilding passage. Once Kohli fell to his compatriot Jason Holder, it was exactly like Afghanistan before Dhoni and Pandya injected some much-needed impetus to the innings.

To think that Roach was not part of the West Indies’ starting XI from the beginning of the tournament. He and Sheldon Cottrell did not get early wickets but kept Rohit and Rahul quiet. The first boundary was scored after 27 balls when Rohit cut Cottrell past backward point and collected a six with a trademark pull before inside-edging to the keeper. Initially declared not out, despite inconclusive evidence, the decision was overturned.

Rahul and Kohli batted to put 69 off 88 balls with Rahul making steady progress. He collected the gaps behind square off Fabian Allen and padded him with good effect. Kohli began with two quick boundaries in a space of seven balls before executing a cut that beat the fielders inside the 30-yard circle. From there however, he went 10 overs without a boundary with West Indies tightening things up.

While Roach provided the breakthrough, the real threat was Holder. He began with two maidens and conceded just five in his next three. Both Kohli and Rahul had to measure their approach against Holder’s fourth-stump line. Then came a superb delivery, with Holder beating Rahul’s defence to clean him up with the batsman attempting a repeat off a flick that got him a boundary.

Kohli reached his half-century off 55 balls, yet another start, but Roach’s double-wicket burst, in which he had Shankar and Jadhav out caught behind in quick succession. With Kohli and Dhoni at the crease, India batted alarmingly slow – 40 runs in almost 10 overs. India’s hopes of Kohli taking off from there received a major blow when the Indian captain pulled a ball that kept low to substitute Darren Bravo.

To the fuller deliveries, Dhoni struggled to rotate strike against the spinners again but didn’t miss out on anything short to him. He was on 8 when Shai Hope missed what would have been a second successive stumping for the former Indian captain. Off Allen, Dhoni chipped down only to be beaten by the turn. Hope, with almost an eternity to get Dhoni out, failed to collect the ball, twice.

In Pandya though, Dhoni found respite and in the final eight overs, India got a move on. Pandya began with a pull for his first boundary, followed by Dhoni’s first four in 16 overs. Two more cracking boundaries from Pandya pushed India towards 250 before he fell to Sheldon Cottrell for 46 crucial runs. Dhoni held himself till the final over before taking on Cottrell, muscling him for two sixes and a four.

Brief Scores: India 268/7 (Virat Kohli 72, MS Dhoni 56; Kemar Roach 3/36) against West Indies.