2nd T20I: Lendl Simmons fifty helps West Indies level series in Thiruvananthapuram

Big hits, clever bowling and better fielding. Having won just 1 T20I in 2019, finally, West Indies brought their A-game to Thiruvananthapuram for the 2nd match of the ongoing series and showed why they are the reigning world champions in the format. After executing well thought out bowling plans to restrict India to 170/7, West Indies batsmen Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis and others mixed aggression with match awareness to keep the series alive as we move on to Mumbai for the series decider.

Simmons hit 67*, Lewis 40 and Nicholas Pooran who returned to the side after serving his 4-match ban, scored a fluent 34* to seal an 8-wicket victory for the visitors. India, on their part were plagued with similar problems from Hyderabad as they misfielded, dropped catches and kept bowling short and without imagination.

Earlier, Kieron Pollard won the toss and opted to bowl first on a tricky surface in Thiruvananthapuram and soon proved that decision right by not letting either KL Rahul or Rohit Sharma to settle. With the West Indies bowlers making good use of a pitch that was on the slower side, Rahul fell in the 4th over bowled by Khary Pierre, trying to go for a slog sweep. Spectators though were in for a surprise as Virat Kohli promoted budding all-rounder Shivam Dube to No.3 instead of going out himself.

The decision to send Dube proved a master-stroke in hindsight as the left-hander smashed the opposition bowlers to all parts of the ground, hitting three 4s and four huge 6s. He also took some pressure of the out-of-touch Rohit who tried to get out of the hole by attempting a scoop shot, only to find his stumps rattled by Jason Holder.

Finally, Kohli joined Dube but the captain too soon found out that it wasn’t easy to play his shots freely against the WI bowlers who were bowling a number of slower variations to stifle the hosts. At the other end, Dube seemed like he was playing on a different track altogether as he blasted Pollard for 3 sixes in the 9th over to fetch a total of 26 runs off it. Soon, he completed his maiden T20I off just 27 balls as India were looking well set to touch 200 for the 2nd successive game.

But the introduction of left-arm spinner Hayden Walsh Junior tilted the scales in favour of Windies as he lured Dube into another attempted loft over cover, bringing an end to the batsman’s innings. Thereafter, Rishabh Pant and Kohli continued Dube’s good work before the captain fell to a soft dismissal off the bowling of Kesrick Williams. The bowler celebrated by a ‘finger on the lips’ gesture thereby fuelling a rivalry which was reignited by Kohli’s ‘notebook’ antics in Hyderabad.

The fall of Kohli inspired the West Indians to continue with their variations and it heaped huge rewards as new batsmen found it difficult to clear the ropes. Shreyas Iyer (10), Ravindra Jadeja (9) and Sundar (0) fell in quick succession as Pant kept trying to keep the scoreboard ticking at the other end. But some excellent death bowling from Windies helped restrict India to 170/7 despite Pant ending with an unbeaten 33.

In reply, West Indies got off to a sedate start – apparently learning from their blunders while trying to balance the dual task of saving wickets and hitting sixes all year. The relatively slow start helped West Indies later as the settled Evin Lewis unleashed his explosive self hitting back-to-back boundaries off Deepak Chahar.

When Bhuvneshwar Kumar induced a false shot from Simmons in the 5th over, Washington Sundar dropped a sitter continuing his woeful run in the field from Hyderabad. 2 balls later, Pant couldn’t hold on to a tough chance offered by Lewis as the ball popped out of his hand as he landed to the ground. Soon, even Jadeja was guilty of misfielding and it seemed like these instances would cost India dearly.

But Sundar soon redeemed himself – but as a bowler – as Lewis (40) was stumped by Pant in the 10th over. The wicket failed to put brakes on the WI scoring rate as Shimron Hetmyer and Simmons continued to flay the Indian attack. Against the run of play, Hetmyer, who was looking particularly lethal fell to a stunning running catch from Kohli at the long-on boundary – just millimeters away from the advertising cushions – gifting Jadeja his first wicket.

Simmons brought up his fifty of 38 balls courtesy a six off Yuzvendra Chahal, who also went for runs on a miserable night for the Indian bowlers. At the other end, Nicholas Pooran, who was brought in to replace Denesh Ramdin, justified his selection by hitting a six and 2 fours in his first 5 balls. Thereafter the duo completed the winning formalities with 9 balls to spare.

Source – India Today