Brandon King and Nicholas Pooran knock out India

West Indies 171 for 2 (King 85*, Pooran 47) batted India 165 for 9 (Suryakumar 61, Shephard 4-31, Hosein 2-24) with eight wickets

India’s multi-format tour of the Caribbean and the US ended with a T20I series defeat to the West Indies, with a lack of lower-order muscle and a lackluster bowling show playing a role in Sunday’s result in Florida. But let that not take any credit away from Nicholas Pooran and Brandon King, the architects of a superbly crafted chase.

The pair put on 107 off 72 balls for the second wicket and didn’t let India in the door. What looked like it could be a tough chase at the start turned into a stroll as the West Indies eventually cruised home with 12 balls to spare to register their second consecutive T20I series win and their first against of India since 2017.

King, Pooran flame away

West Indies lost Kyle Mayers in the second over to Arshdeep Singh, but it spurred them on to go even harder in drizzly conditions that forced teams to keep one eye on the DLS sheet.

Tight for space and hit on the side off a short second ball, Pooran provided the perfect response when he slotted Arshdeep over deep midwicket to open his account off the fourth ball he faced. Pooran then had a bit of luck when he was nearly bowled by a diving Mukesh Kumar at mid-on in the third over of the innings, and he made the most of it by hitting Hardik Pandya for sixes over reverse soon after.

Pooran continued to enjoy a charmed life when a small spike in the Snickometer – the thinnest of glove tips attempting a slog sweep – helped overturn an lbw decision by Kuldeep Yadav in the fifth over. But around it all, there was some impressive hitting – clean and unhindered – to completely throw India’s bowlers off the rails.

Did India make a tactical mistake?

India’s decision to play six bowlers (including Hardik), which carries the inherent risk of their batting quickly diminishing, was designed specifically to deal with situations like this. However, today, against Puran in particular, you wondered if they made a tactical mistake.

Mukesh Kumar’s strength as a bowler is to swing him with the new ball. Today he bowled just one in the first 10 (tenth). Axar Patel surrendered just one (in the 15th over, with West Indies needing 42 from 36) and Yuzvendra Chahal, perhaps at his lowest point in terms of confidence, came into the powerplay – that ended for 14 with King welcoming him with a huge hit on spin for a six.

The only bowler who relaxed the batters somewhat was Kuldeep, who varied his pace and length well. In the previous two games, Pooran was out trying to get him. Today, Pooran was intent on learning from that and milked singles from Kuldeep, whose first three overs went for just 16.

After going briskly for much of the innings, King chased Pooran to his half-century when he stepped out and bowled Chahal at long-off in the 13th over to get there from 38 balls. As soon as the shot was taken, the players left after a flash warning.

After the restart, with West Indies needing 47 from 42, Hardik tossed the ball to Tilak Varma for some offspin, and he hit the second ball when Pooran gloved an attempted reverse sweep to slip. But Shai Hope came in and played a scintillating hand, allaying any fears of a slowdown, sealing the win with a six down the ground.

Suryakumar, Tilak help India recover from early knocks

On the toss, Hardik said India wanted to challenge themselves by batting first, but with three overs to go, it already looked like they had quite a job on their hands.

Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, the architects of the carnage from 24 hours earlier, fell cheaply to the left edge of Akeal Hosein. Jaiswal ended up slipping out, while Gill was out for a sweep he could have reviewed, with replays confirming the ball would have missed leg stump.

Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak countered that pressure from the start with a superb counter-attack. Tilak was particularly dismissive of Alzarri Joseph as he took him for 4, 6, 4, 4 in the sixth over. The six, in particular, was bold – he drove Joseph from the length to the square-leg fence.

At the other end, Suryakumar was enjoying himself, picking up Hossain, hitting straight for four and standing tall and driving elegantly.

A slowdown…

India’s third wicket pair had added 49 from five overs to put the innings into fourth gear before Roston Chase’s brilliance matched Tilak. What looked like an innocuous push for a single turned deadly when Chase, on his next pitch, ran to his right and dived full length to grab the ball, fending off a late appeal. It looked like it was going to be a mandatory check for a bump ball (Chase’s teammates hadn’t even appealed), but again it turned out to be much more than that: a wild fistfight ensued in the West Indies camp when replays confirmed that Tilak had bent. the ball straight off the bat and his cameo was nipped in the bud.

Sanju Samson then fell for his third low score of the series – a nine-ball 13 – to Romario Shepherd. At 87 for 4 in the 11th over, Hardik seemingly decided he wasn’t going to risk exposing the lower order too early and tried to come on. Shepherd and then Joseph for six – the latter a six from inside out to bring up his 38-ball half-century. At 121 for 4 in 15.5 overs, India looked set for a final assault when the rain came again.

… Collapse followed

Hardik fell shortly after the restart when he picked a long-on delivery after hitting Shepherd over the long-on boundary. Suryakumar followed in the next over when the West Indies overturned a decision not out lbw through DRS. The bottom line just unfolded from there. a fortuitous boundary from last man Mukesh (with his edge past the keeper) dragged India to 165 when, at one point, they looked good for 190. The way the chase shaped up, perhaps even that can was not enough.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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