Shivnarine Chanderpaul couldn’t prevent India from a victory for the second time in the Pepsi Cup Series. At the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, the Guyanese did everything he could for his side but in the end, it was India snatching the match by a margin of 20 runs. It was an incredible win for the home team as they had come a long way after being in a miserable situation of 90 for 7, having decided to bat first. The wicket was a dead slow passenger, but it should get the credit for providing an absorbing battle between bat and the ball in which the ball was clearly the winner. The batsmen had to surrender to the nature of the pitch, which is what is expected in the game of cricket.
If the Nagpur wicket was a belter, then this one was a complete contrast for the strokemakers. The ball just didn’t come onto the bat and was gripping the surface considerably. There was a puff of dust as well coming out when the white cricket ball landed on the turf. The day wasn’t short of any action though, the 35,000 crowd that had filled up the Barabati Stadium might have well enjoyed this unique contest where the batsmen had to earn each and every run.
India came into this match with the two changes in giving all rounders – Ramesh Powar and Joginder Sharma a go in place of Suresh Raina and Sreesanth. For Chris Gayle, it was a big day, as he was captaining his team for the first time in his international career following Brian Lara’s knee problem. Devon Smith was drafted into the vacant spot. The signs of the wicket being a bad one for an ODI showed up right in the first over as the ball struggled to carry to the keeper. India lost the inform Gautam Gambhir to a snick down the legside off Bradshaw and had lost Sourav Ganguly to a mistimed flick shot off Daren Powell with hardly anything on the scoreboard. For Ganguly, it was a second chance in the match, the first chance was when he was not given out by the local umpire, Amiesh Saheba, who was unmoved despite Ganguly getting a clear nick to the keeper. It was disappointing to see Ganguly not walking off although he knew that he had got an edge while trying to steer a Taylor slower off cutter to thirdman. But all Sourav could do was to get 13 runs which included a smack over covers.
India was with two of its most experienced batsmen in Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in the middle. These two are the best to adapt to any tricks that the pitch might play. But Tendulkar continued to be off colour and like Ganguly was induced in playing his shot early off Daren Powell to be caught in the infield. It was a six-ball duck for the little master and with his wicket, India were struggling at 35 for 3 in the 11th over. Things got worst when Rahul Dravid got cleaned by a good delivery from Daren Powell, who was at his destructive best, not with his pace but with his change of pace. Dravid made 22 out of the 46 runs India had collected at that stage. Dravid was looking very good infact, as he timed his flicks to perfection as every now and then the West Indian bowlers were feeding him down the pads. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was along with another wicket keeper, Dinesh Karthik and the two had to put on something special to repair the damage done. But it was not Dhoni’s fault that he was out to a leading edge to the bowler, Dwayne Smith. It was the sluggish pitch that had made the ball to stop onto the bat as Dhoni tried to work Smith to the onside. At 66 for 5 and then at 69 for 6 when Joginder Sharma had dragged his desperate on the rise drive onto the stumps, the match looked to be heading for a quick finish.
Dinesh Karthik was the lone man fighting for India, trying to take them to some sort of a respectable score. Like Dravid, his timing was beautiful and was useful in putting up some runs on the board. He lost his next partner Harbhajan, who had helped him in putting up 21 runs for the 7th wicket. But the real rescue came from Ajit Agarkar, who teamed up with Dinesh Karthik to fetch some important runs. Karthik eventually fell in the 41st over, trying to manufacture a dab to thirdman out of nowhere to be bowled by Bradshaw. By then Dinesh Karthik had got 63, which was his maiden half century in this format of the game. Karthik’s runs had come in 87 balls with 7 fours. His partnership with Ajit Agarkar was 62 which came at run-a-ball. Ajit Agarkar proved his worth as a lower order batsman today and with support from Zaheer Khan stretched India’s total to 189. India had wasted 10 deliveries in their innings by getting bowled out early. Agarkar was the last man to be out after getting a 47-ball 40. From 90 for 7 to 189 all out, India couldn’t have asked more from its lower half. For Daren Powell, it was probably one of his better days as a bowler, he took a neat 4 for 27 in 10 overs. Ian Bradshaw and Dwayne Bravo chipped in with a couple. However, it was a bad performance from West Indies for giving away as many as 24 extras in a low scoring game!
Ajit Agarkar carrying the confidence of his lovely innings a few minutes back provided the first breakthrough for India. Chris Gayle was beaten low on his pads by an inswinger that pitched in line and kept low. It was Agarkar’s first delivery of his spell. Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar bowled pretty well, but at the same time Chanderpaul and Devon Smith were settling down nicely. It was only a run out that had ended Devon Smith’s innings, he was sent back by Chanderpaul in a possible second run, which saw Smith slipping down in the centre of the pitch. The Indians got back into the match with Harbhajan forcing Samuels to be caught bat pad. West Indies were 42 for 3, but any further damage was prevented by a threatening partnership between Chanderpaul and Bravo. Ramesh Powar gave the crucial break in the 27th over as he had Bravo to be caught at bat pad. It was revenge for Powar as he was struck for a clean six in his previous over by Bravo, who had made a busy 31 from 33. Ramesh Powar got Morton’s wicket in the same over with the batsman paying price for leaving a sharp turning off break which pitched outside the offstump. Morton was cleaned up as he didn’t use his pads as a second line of defence.
At 89 for 5, Windies were in serious trouble, the spinners were in full flow at both the ends. This was when Dwayne Smith had come in to do a Bravo act. Two powerful sixes off Ramesh Powar had got the target get reduced quickly. The Indians were lucky to remove the dangerous Dwayne Smith through a rank long hop from Tendulkar. Dwayne Smith’s 25 from 25 had taken WI to 139 for 6. With his final delivery of the match, Ramesh Powar picked up his third wicket which was gifted by a needless chance taken by Denesh Ramdin who was bowled through the gate after charging down the track. Chanderpaul was the only man putting up a fight and he was left with just the tail enders. Bradshaw was the eight wicket to go down, falling to Tendulkar and Powell was the ninth, run out after being sent back by Chanderpaul. With 20 more to get, Chanderpaul finally gave away his fight as he tried to hit Zaheer Khan only to drag his shot onto his stumps. West Indies had lost some of its wickets due to the pressure of getting the runs quickly as all the Indian bowlers used were very economical. They were bowled out in the same number of overs that India were bowled out for. That was the end of the match as India took the 2-0 lead in this four-ODI Series. Chanderpaul had got 67 from 125 balls which had 4 boundaries.
Dinesh Karthik was given the Man of the Match award for his fighting knock in the first session. India cannot lose this series from here. The third ODI is at Chennai which will also be a day night affair. West Indies might bring back Brian Lara, but this series looks to be more of a formality for them. For India, it is an opportunity to find the right combinations in their batting which hasn’t delivered consistently.