Cricket - Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant pulls off a trademark pull shot during his innings of 52 off 28 balls on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

Kolkata: Unpredictable - that’s how you can qualify the West Indies team in the best and worst of times. Just when Team India looked in control to win the second T20 match at the Eden Gardens to wrap up the series, vice-captain Nicholas Pooran and Rovman Powell came up with some unbridled hitting to stitch together a 100-run partnership off 60 balls - only for them to finally fall short by eight runs.

Chasing a stiff taget of 187 to pull off a win on a slowing Eden wicket, the Caribbeans had lost both their openers but then the pint-sized Pooran found an able company in Powell to take the fight to the rival camp. The Indian pace attack looked somewhat exposed at this point and they will have to thank the duo of Rishabh Pant and Venkatesh Iyer to provide that margin of 20 odd runs extra to win the day. The third match of the series on Sunday is now of academic interest.

Till the late assault, India had been playing a better brand of cricket than Wednesday to ensure themselves of the T20I series but more importantly - they must have heaved a sigh a relief at Virat Kohli finally breaking the shackles with a half-century while their spinners threatened to throttle the rivals.


The 76-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Pant and Iyer, which came almost at a strike-rate of 200, must have surely pleased the Indian team management who are looking beyond the ‘Big Two’ of Rohit Sharma and Kohli to give momentum to their innings in white ball cricket. If Pant often gave a display of his brute strength during his 52 off 28 balls - with his only six off Jason Holder by taking off the bottom hand a breathtaking one - Iyer took another step towards staking his claim in the number six position with some sensible hitting.

West Indian captain Kieron Pollard had the lady luck of the toss smiling at him on his 100th T20I appearance and he had no hesitation in opting to field with the few factor playing on his mind. They started on a promising note when the bouncy Sheldon Cottrell picked up Ishan Kishan early - a dismissal which saw Kohli walking in to loud cheers from a smattering of crowd in the upper tier of the stadium.

The 49-run partnership between Kohli and Rohit held promise for more till the Indian skipper fell to the guile of Roston Chase. For a change, Kohli looked the more fluent of the two while Rohit was not being able to get his timing right and eventually perished with a catch to Brandon King for a laboured 19.

Kohli in the zone

Kohli, meanwhile, looked in good mental space and began to anchor the innings after the quick dismissals of Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav. He flicked the first delivery that he faced from Akeal Hussain off his legs and followed it up an audacious pick-up shot to fine leg for a boundary. It’s not often that one sees him playing that shot, but the master batsman seemed to have worked out a plan to break the shackles rather than just treating a bowler on merit.

He reached a much-needed half-century - his second at the venue after the one against Pakistan in 2016 World T20 - and it came in style when he dragged a Chase delivery from outside the off stump to deep mid-wicket to mark the only six of his innings. The off-spinner’s persistence eventually paid off when Kohli played down the wrong line to a well tossed up delivery and ended up getting castled.

Chase proved his worth against a quality batting line-up again, picking up the valuable wickets of Rohit, Kohli and Suryakumar to end with figures of 4-0-25-3.