| Lucknow |
Published: November 7, 2018 1:29:21 am
Every time Rohit Sharma walks out to bat in the shorter formats, one gets the feeling that he can pull off the improbable. Nothing ever seems to faze him. While others around him continue to struggle with their stroke-play, Rohit carries on with such ridiculous ease that it’s almost mind-boggling.
On Tuesday evening, he treated the capacity crowd at Lucknow’s brand new Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Centre to some scintillating stroke-play, most of which only he could pull off in his own inimitable manner. Like that pull shot he exhibited against his rival captain Carlos Brathwaite, or that six he smoked against Fabian Allen.
It was a delivery meant to cramp him up for room. But Rohit swivels around and clears his left leg to deposit it into the mid-wicket fence. In the process, the Indian captain registered his fourth century in T20s, the most by any batsman in this format. His unbeaten 61-ball 111 propelled India to 195/2, which helped India earn a comprehensive 71-run win over West Indies, and an unassailable 2-0 lead in this series.
Very early in his knock, Rohit went past Virat Kohli’s tally of 2,102 runs, to become the highest individual scorer in the game’s shortest format. Like most of his sensational knocks in the past, Sharma had a largely muted start. Oshane Thomas, the young Windies rookie rattled him with pace and zip. Sharma hopped around, playing out a maiden over first-up.
He would play out another two relatively quiet overs, before launching the assault by welcoming left-arm spinner Khary Pierre with a boundary. Pierre’s introduction gave India the opening, and Sharma did not look back, clearing the 80metre boundary lines here in Lucknow on eight occasions. Sharma’s rampage helped his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan to play himself in.
The 33-year-old has found himself in the midst of an indifferent batting form in the shorter formats, and has precious little to show since his century against Pakistan at the Asia Cup. In the ODIs and the first T20 at the Eden Gardens, he found Thomas’ pace too hot to handle. Understandably so, he was extra cautious against him. But in due course of time, his opening partner’s supreme confidence rubbed off on Dhawan.
A flick and an exquisite cover drive against Thomas got him off the blocks. Despite playing out a maiden over at the start, India’s openers notched up yet another 100-run stand in just a shade more than 12 overs. Dhawan, who struggled with his timing in the middle overs, got a reprieve when he was dropped at the square-leg boundary by Keemo Paul.
The 20-year-old Guyanese had grabbed eyeballs with his over-the-top imitation of Dhawan’s trademark ‘Gabbar’ celebrations after he dismissed him in the 4th ODI in Mumbai. Little more than a week later, in front of a full house in Lucknow, Paul found himself at the receiving end. Dhawan continued to play the second fiddle to his captain, but by the time he was dismissed for 43, India had raced to 123 from14 overs. In doing so, Sharma and Dhawan together became the most prolific opening pair in T20s, overtaking the record set by Australia’s Shane Watson and David Warner.
Like Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul also struggled with their timing. But Sharma continued in his irrepressible manner. It looked as if he was batting on another pitch, oblivious to the travails of his team-mates. Thomas, the only West Indies bowler who had troubled him, had bowled out his full quota by the 15th over.
The rest of the attack simply lacked the skill to outwit Sharma. The last five overs of the Indian innings produced 66 runs, and by the time the Indian captain had reached the three-figure mark, the visitors had already given up their will to fight.
The weight of Sharma’s knock reverberated when West Indies came out to bat. Lot was expected from their dashing young opening duo of Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer. But Hope departed early after cracking a six off Bhuvneshwar in the fourth ball of the innings.
From there on, it was a slow meander into oblivion for the visitors. There wasn’t a single partnership of substance. Darren Bravo, Dinesh Ramdin and Keiron Pollard, all experienced players at the international level, came a cropper yet again under the daunting pressure of the scoreboard. India’s bowling was resolute and effervescent in equal measure, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav landed timely blows to derail the chase. Bravo, with 23, was the top-scorer, while 16 extras finished as the third-highest contributor on the score-sheet. That pretty much summed up the sordid tale.
After the mauling, West Indies captain Brathwaithe looked to count the positives. “Chasing 195 was always an uphill task but a few positives, with Allen bowling well. Not to look at too many negatives and get away from this game. India batted well, even at the first stage we thought we were one or two wickets away from restricting them to 160-170. We’ve got a young group of guys and we want to appreciate the small good things they did,” he said.
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