Skipper Virat Kohli stamped his authority with yet another sublime innings of career-best 94 not out as India pulled off their highest successful run chase in a T20 International to beat West Indies by six wickets in the first match at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Friday. K L Rahul also struck an impressive 62 off just 40 balls to help India chase down the target of 208 with eight balls to spare.
The earlier highest successful run chase for India in a T20I was the 207 against Sri Lanka in Mohali in 2009.
India, thus, took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. The second T20 International will be played in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
Opening the innings in the absence of injured Shikhar Dhawan, Rahul played fluently to score his seventh T20I fifty, during which he hit five boundaries and four sixes to make a case for himself to be in India's squad for next year's T20 World Cup.
Kohli, who played the second fiddle till Rahul was around, showed his class and opened up his arms to notch up his fifty of 35 balls and guided India to a rather comprehensive win as the home side reached 208 for 4 in 18.4 overs.
Rahul and Kohli shared 100 runs for the second wicket to lay the platform for the victory.
Shimron Hetmyer. Photo: PTI
Kohli, in the end, remained unbeaten six runs shy of century. He hit six fours and as many sixes from the 50 balls he faced.
Rishabh Pant made 18 off nine deliveries but again threw away his wicket to only make matters difficult for himself.
India, however, made a quiet start to their chase as the first over produced just four runs. But Rahul struck three boundaries off Jason Holder to give impetus to India's chase.
India were dealt a severe blow in the fourth over when Rohit Sharma (8) picked out Shimron Hetmyer at deep midwicket off the bowling of Khary Pierre with India's scoreboard reading 30 in 3.2 overs.
Rahul, however, meant business as he continued his onslaught and struck Sheldon Cotrell and Pierre for two sixes in consecutive overs to take India forward.
Earlier, Shimron Hetmyer struck a quick half-century as West Indies produced a fine batting display to post a challenging 207 for 5.
An aggressive Hetmyer made 56 off 41 balls which was studded with two boundaries and four hits over the fence to hold West Indies from one end after being sent into bat.
He first added 37 runs with Brandon King (31 off 23 balls) and then shared 71 runs with skipper
Kieron Pollard (37 off 19 balls) to lay the base for the West Indies total.
The Indians, however, were far from impressive on the field as Washington Sundar and Rohit Sharma dropped a few catches.
Off-spinner Washington Sundar (1/34) leaked runs in the first over before Deepak Chahar (1/56) gave India the breakthrough in the next over, taking the wicket of Lendl Simmons, caught by Rohit Sharma in the first slip.
Evin Lewis (40 off 17) and young King then added 51 runs for the second wicket, during which they played some fearless shots, to take West Indies forward.
Lewis pulled Chahar for two sixes in the fourth over to make his intentions clear. He continued the onslaught and struck comeback man Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a six and a four in consecutive balls. He then smoked off-spinner Sundar over the cover boundary but perished in the next ball, LBW in search of one shot too many.
Young King and Hetmyer then added 37 runs for the third wicket before the former was stumped by Rishabh Pant off Ravindra Jadeja's (1/30) bowling.
Hetmyer, on the other hand, went about his business in a quiet fashion, hitting the bad deliveries out of the park to register his fifth half-century in T20 cricket in 35 balls.
But a double breakthrough by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (2/36) in the 18th over put a check on West Indies' scoring rate.
Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis, Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard(c), Denesh Ramdin(w), Jason Holder, Hayden Walsh, Sheldon Cottrell, Kesrick Williams, Khary Pierre
Here's what Virat Kohli during the toss
We're going to bowl first. There will be dew in 45 mins to one hour. It's a good wicket to bat on, and it's going to get better to bat with the ball coming on nicely. Chasing has been better for us to be honest.
India playing 11
Rohit Sharma, K L Rahul, Virat Kohli (capt), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar.
India playing 11 Alert
Sanju Samson, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey not playing today
TOSS ALERT: India win toss and elect to bowl first
India captain Virat Kohli flips the coin and it is tails. India win the toss and elect to bowl first.
A few cracks, but they won't open up much in 40 overs. A bit of turn and the ball will come on nicely so batting will be a real pleasure, but I don't have any clue on dew, reckons Sunil Gavaskar in pitch report.
West Indies should leave India as better team, not necessarily winning: Lara
West Indies batting icon Brian Lara on Friday said the Kieron Pollard-led side should target becoming an improved outfit by the end of its limited-overs series against India here even if it fails to win much in the rubber.
West Indies and India are playing a three-match T20 International and three-match ODI series, starting today in Hyderabad. India are overwhelming favourites to emerge winners.
"...he (Pollard) will have to build a team...playing against India in India is always a tough proposition and he must leave here not necessarily winning but he must leave here a better team after this tournament," Lara said at an event here.
Lara backed Pollard's appointment as the team's skipper for the limited-overs format.
"Over a period of time, his representation for West Indies may not be a lot but he has played all around the World in different leagues. He has gained a lot of respect from the opposition. I didn't see it as a bad decision (to appoint him as a captain)," Lara told reporters.
No-balls for overstepping not to be on-field umpires' call
In the India vs West Indies series (T20 and ODIs), front foot no balls will be decided by the third umpire and not the on-field officials, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Thursday. The series, comprising three T20 Internationals and an equal number of ODIs, starts on Friday in Hyderabad and technology to call front foot no balls will be put to trial in it.
"Throughout the trial, the Third Umpire will be responsible for monitoring every ball bowled and identifying whether there has been any front foot infringement," the ICC said in a statement.
India go with experience in pace department
The Indian pace attack looks menacing with the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami.
Shami last appeared in a T20I in 2017, while Bhuvneshwar returns to the squad after recovering from a muscle problem. Bhuvneshwar's last T20 was against the West Indies in the Caribbean in August this year.
The find of the Bangladesh series, Deepak Chahar, is also expected to play a big role alongside Shami and Bhuvneshwar in the past attack.
Indian cricket team fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah during a practice session at MAC Stadium on the eve of the first ODI match against Australia, in Chennai. File Photo: PTI
Can Kuldeep-Chahal spin duo find a place in India playing 11?
On the bowling front, there are several notable comebacks with the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar returning to the side's T20 setup.
The duo of Kuldeep and Chahal, also known as 'Kulcha', will reunite after a long time. Kuldeep last featured in the shortest format in February 2019 against New Zealand. But it would to interesting to see whether both the wrist spinners will find a place in India playing 11 given all round capabilities of Ravindra Jadeja, who is in red hot form with both bat and ball.
Can Sanju Samson find a place in India playing 11?
Although he was named in the T20 squad against Bangladesh, the Kerala 'keeper-batsman didn't get a single opportunity in the series and was only picked for this rubber after Dhawan sustained a knee injury while playing for Delhi in the Syed Mushtaq Ali National T20 Championship.
It is certain that Pant will be the first choice wicketkeeper but in case he fails again, it remains to be seen whether the team management gives Samson an opportunity, which he certainly deserves.
Rajsthan Royals' batsman Sanju Samson plays a shot during the 2nd qualifier IPL T 20 eliminator cricket match between KKR and Rajasthan Royals at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Wednesday.
'Do or die' for Rishabh Pant
With in form Sanju Samson warming the benches, Rishabh Pant need to get back to form or it is going to be too late for him. Given, the southpaw has, of late, come under the scanner for his inconsistent form with the bat and poor glove work.
He has been seen as the successor to MS Dhoni, but after the conclusion of ICC ODI World Cup 2019, Pant has endured a slump in form and was heavily criticised for throwing his wicket away on multiple occasions. Even his glove-work came under heavy scrutiny and the left-hander was dropped in the longest format of the game and Wriddhiman Saha regained his place in the playing 11.
With the selectors bringing in talented Sanju Samson in the squad and talks of Dhoni coming out of his sabbatical soon, it's high time for Pant to either perform or lose his place in the squad. The series is also huge for Samson.
Rishabh Pant. Photo: @RishabPant777
K L Rahul eyeing opener's slot
In the absence of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan, the series will provide the Rahul a very good opportunity to secure his place as Rohit Sharma's partner up the order ahead of next year's T20 World Cup.
K L Rahul record in T20 Internationals
In 31 T20 Internationals, Rahul has amassed 974 runs at an average of 42.74 with 110 not out being his highest score. He is also a prolific scorer in the IPL.
File photo: India's K L Rahul takes a run during the Cricket World Cup match between India and West Indies at Old Trafford in Manchester, England
India vs West Indies 1st T20 preview
As India Cricket Team take on Windies Cricket Team in a three-match T20 series starting at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Friday, the likes of K L Rahul and Rishabh Pant will be aiming to cement their place in the squad. The series comes at a time when India are still auditioning for next year's T20 World Cup.
India will continue their preparations for the T20 World Cup in Australia and many players, whose places are not yet secure, will try to impress the team management and selectors with their performances against the West Indies. One such name is Rahul. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE