Bravo
Dwayne Bravo keeps MS Dhoni’s last-ball heroics at bay © Getty Images

Chasing 246 runs off 120 balls was never an easy task. As a matter of fact, pressure of chasing changes the normal dynamics. Yes, India have batting maestros such as Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni at their disposal, but to score runs at a run-rate of over 12 is nearly impossible to achieve. In addition, India have the charismatic Rohit Sharma, the only cricketer to smash two double-centuries in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). All the same, emulating such heroics needs magnificent character. Let alone character, one needs stroke of luck to even to reach close to the target. Eventually, we saw the unprecedented, as India fell short by a run. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs West Indies, 1st T20I, Lauderhill

MS Dhoni added one more achievement to his illustrious career. He captained Team India for the 325th team, surpassing former Australia captain Ricky Ponting’s tally of 324 match. To be honest, this is peerless, for leading a team in so many matches is something we don’t get to witness often. It demands respect. In short, Dhoni demands adulation for achieving the milestone.

The Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground (Lauderhill, Florida) witnessed 15,000 spectators supporting the two most celebrated T20I teams — India and West Indies. Given the kind of superstars both teams boast of, the match was expected to be a thriller. And it turned out exactly the same.

After Dhoni invited West Indies to bat first, Carlos Brathwaite and his team registered third highest T20I total. In a matter of just 20 overs, they managed to plunder as many as 245 runs.

With Chris Gayle out due to injury, reaching this total in indeed commendable.

The rampaging opening duo of Johnson Charles and Evin Lewis went all guns blazing right from the word go. The first over leaked 17 runs. Mohammad Shami, who made a comeback to shorter format after an injury, was left startled by the counterattack. Let alone Shami, every Indian bowler was reduced to nothingness. They were annihilated, to be precise.

While fours and sixes were raining, a record after record was being made.

Charles equalled the record of Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard’s second fastest half-century, taking only 20 balls. The way he batted, it seemed he left everything to chance. The intent was clear: leave no stone unturned to dent India’s spirit.

Edges flew over the wicketkeeper’s head, full-tosses were punished. India were clueless as to what length to bowl. To make matters worse, Lewis joined the party and took the bull by its horn.

Be it Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja, they showed no respect whatsoever. The duo added 126 runs off 57 balls for the first wicket.

While Charles fell for 79, Lewis continued the domination and became the second West Indian to score a hundred in T20Is. Even Andre Russell and Brathwaite added couple of sixes, taking the team to 245 for 6.

The stage was all set for India to go great guns. With Shikhar Dhawan dropped, Ajinkya Rahane was promoted up the order, to open with Rohit. If the track produces enough bounce, Rahane rarely fails to delivery, as he makes full use of the situation when the ball sweetly comes on to the bat. However, it wasn’t his day, as he upper-cuts straight into the hands of Russel at third-man.

In came star batsman Virat Kohli. The onus was now on Rohit and him to put India in a commanding position.

We saw three lovely boundaries off Kohli’s blade. He looked set for a big one. Nonetheless, as fate would have it, he gloved Dwayne Bravo’s short ball to the wicketkeeper. The scorecard read 48 for 2 in 4.4 overs. India needed 198 runs off 88 balls, with 8 wickets in hand.

In-form KL Rahul joined Rohit in the middle, and thus began the rampage.

Rahul took the initiative to put the opposition on the back foot. He welcomed the mystery spinner Sunil Narine with a boundary, followed by a delightful six over the long-off fence. Like the West Indians, he too looked in no non-sense mood, as he scored one boundary, scoring 16 runs off the over.

It was a run-fest in Florida. Rahul collected back-to-back boundaries in the next over. Rohit looked coolly from the other end. He, too, knew that the track has everything to offer for the batsmen. He did exactly the same what Rahul did to Narine. He dictated terms to No. 1 spinner of the format, hitting two consecutive sixes. As a matter of fact, the only bowler to bowl a maiden in Super Over had conceded 50 off 3 overs.

By now, fortunes had changed. India had turned the tide in no time.

Gradually, Rohit reached his half-century in 22 balls. Meanwhile, Rahul kept picking his gaps.

Dhoni came to the crease after Rohit was dismissed while trying to clear the rope. The responsibility of finishing the match was on captain’s strong shoulders. “Been there, done that,” he must have said to himself. India needed 109 runs off 49 balls. The required run-rate had scaled up.

Brathwaite fired a short ball, and Dhoni — as cool as a cucumber — got nicely behind it and pulled it on the leg-side. It was a different Dhoni. Yes, calm and composed as ever, but there was a slight change in his technique. Instead of leaning forward, he looked more relax at the crease, playing it as late as he could.

He hit one more four, past fine-leg and two sixes, one over long and one over deep mid-wicket. Rahul, at the other end, was on 94 off 44. India now needed 24 off the last 2 overs.

Everyone was at the edge of their seats. But Rahul cut the tension by slicing the fullish ball over third-man to become the third Indian to score a hundred in all the formats. Also read: Rahul scores maiden T20I century, 2nd fastest in T20I

This innings, in fact, will be rated highly in the shortest format.

8 runs need off the last over, with Captain Cool at the crease. Bravo, the first bowler to take 300 wickets in T20 cricket, was all in readiness to restrict India from pulling off the unlikely.

The stylish Caribbean bowled a slower delivery, a venom that has got the better of greatest of batsmen. Dhoni shimmied down the track and edged it to Marlon Samuels at short third-man. As fate would have it, Samuels dropped a sitter. 7 needed off 5 balls.

The match belonged to India, as they scored three consecutive singles. All the same, Bravo — at such crucial juncture — was at his best. He read the batsmen’s foot work well and bowled likewise. More importantly, he bowled in the block hole.

2 needed off the last ball. Best finisher of the current generation was at the crease. He had done it in the past. Scoring 2 off 1 ball was not that big a task.

Bravo ended the same way he had started the over. He fired another slower ball. Dhoni yet again edged it to Marlon Samuels. There was a pin-drop silence for fraction of a second. It would be fair to say that everyone’s heart was in their mouth.

As Dhoni started running, Marlon Samuels — this time — didn’t fail to pouch it comfortably, as West Indies beat India by a run, leading a two-match series 1-0.

Brief scores:

West Indies 245 for 6 in 20 overs (Evin Lewis 100, Johnson Charles 79; Ravindra Jadeja 2 for 47, Jasprit Bumrah 2 for 46) beat India (KL Rahul 110*, Rohit Sharma 62; Dwayne Bravo 2 for 37, Kieron Pollard 1 for 30)

Man of the Match: Evin Lewis

Full scorecard

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(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)