Kolkata: India made a heavy weather of a small target to beat West Indies by five wickets in the first of the three-match Twenty20 series against West Indies at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.
Chasing 110 for victory, the hosts kept losing wickets at regular intervals, the innings almost taking a similar path as the West Indies on a wicket that offered some assistance to the bowlers.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik once again proved his worth with a resolute unbeaten 31 and added crucial partnerships with Manish Pandey and debutant Krunal Pandya, who also had a memorable day with the ball.
Earlier, chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya spun a web around the West Indies batsmen in a joint spell of eight overs to restrict them to a paltry 109/8 in 20 overs. The Windies were reduced to 34/3 in seven overs when Pandya — who had misfielded in only the second ball of the innings — was brought in.
The elder brother of injured Hardik got rid of comeback man Kieron Pollard and gave away just 15 runs while senior pro Kuldeep scalped three wickets leaking 13 runs. After 15 overs, the tourists had managed just 63 runs, losing seven wickets.
Fabien Allen top-scored for the Windies with a counter-attacking 27 off 20 balls (4x4) while Keemo Paul remained unbeaten on 15 along with Khari Pierre (9 not out). West Indies crossed the 100-run mark riding a big 19th over which fetched 16 runs off Umesh Yadav (1/36).
Jasprit Bumrah (1/27) and debutant Khaleel Ahmad (1/16) also got a wicket apiece.
The tourists were off to the worst possible start, losing both openers inside the first four overs, and in ludicrous fashion.
First, Denesh Ramdin (2) poked tentatively at a Umesh delivery outside the off-stump that flew to Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps.
In the next over, a comical run out led to in-form Shai Hope (14) — who replaced injured Andre Russell at the last minute in the squad — making the long walk back to the pavilion.
After flicking Khaleel to midwicket, Hope called for a non-existent run but decided midway to backtrack on his decision and for some reason started running towards the non-striker’s end.
India nearly didn’t get the run out, with K.L .Rahul lobbing a throw way over Karthik’s head, but Manish Pandey at backward point collected, ran to the stumps and broke them. With Simron Hetmyer at the other end, there was confusion over which batsman was out before it was confirmed that Hetmyer had made the crease before Hope.
Khaleel returned with a maiden over as the Windies could never recover from the early setback.
Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin rang the bell just after the national anthems of both India and the West Indies were played ahead of the match. Accompanied by Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya, Azhar completed the much sought after ritual in front of a half-full stadium.
His inimitable swagger intact, the 55-year old — wearing a pink polo T-shirt and denims — wore a wry smile on his face as the venue holds a special place in his heart. From his debut hundred in 1984-85 at the iconic ground to a match-saving hundred in 1993, Azhar and Eden Gardens have a connection.
The ringing of the five-minute bell, introduced at Lord’s, is a ritual started in 2007. An international cricketer or administrator or a well known enthusiast of the sport is tasked to perform the act.