Half-centuries by captain Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant paced India to a comfortable seven-wicket victory over the West Indies in the final fixture of the three-match T20 International series at the Guyana National Stadium on Tuesday.
Responding to the West Indies total of 146 for six, Pant top scored with an unbeaten 65 and Kohli contributed 59, the pair taking the match away from the home side with a third-wicket partnership of 106 which ensured the tourists a clean sweep of the series and consigned the World T20 title-holders to their sixth consecutive defeat in the format.
Pant sealed victory in style with a six back over the head of bowler and captain Carlos Brathwaite at the start of the final over of the match as India finished on 150 for three.
Yet as well as they batted, there was never any doubt that the ‘Man of the Match’ award would go to Deepak Chahar, who set the West Indies on the back foot with a couple of early strikes at the start of the match and finished with the excellent figures of three for four off three overs.
One of three changes to the Indian team after they had sealed the series with victories in both matches at the weekend at the Central Broward Stadium in Florida, Chahar’s cunning and accurate variations in pace proved beyond the home batsmen.
“We wanted to try out a few players here but the priority was always to win the game,” said Kohli in explaining his team’s selection policy for the match. “Deepak’s skill is really up there with Bhuvneshwar (Kumar). He is really lethal with the new ball.”
Kieron Pollard again held the innings together with a top score of 58 and dominated a 66-run partnership with Nicholas Pooran (17) for the fourth wicket after they had slipped to 14 for three in just the fourth over.
Chahar struck in his very first over when he had pinch-hitting opener Sunil Narine well caught by Navdeep Saini before removing the other opening batsman, Evin Lewis, and local hero Shimron Hetmyer, both leg-before.
Gangling fast bowler Saini, ‘man of the match’ on his international debut in the opening encounter of the series on Saturday, broke the productive partnership between Pollard and Pooran when he had the junior partner caught behind.
He then bowled Pollard to end the veteran all-rounder’s innings which spanned only 45 deliveries and was highlighted by six sixes and one four.
West Indies were encouraged in defence of that middling total when pacer Oshane Thomas and spinner Fabien Allen combined to remove both openers with 27 runs on the scoreboard in the fifth over.
But Pant joined Kohli and the pair consolidated their team’s situation and then clinically worked themselves into a winning position before the captain fell with victory in sight, Thomas taking his second wicket to Kohli’s innings which occupied 45 deliveries and was highlighted by six fours.
It merely delayed the inevitable though and Pant’s fourth six of his 42-ball knock – he also stroked four fours – formalised the result which always looked likely once he and Kohli got into stride.
“We didn’t start well with the bat again,” said a disappointed Brathwaite.
“Not sure why the top order isn’t firing but we’ve made some changes to the squad and will have to look for improved performances going forward.”