Brandon King and Nicholas Pooran deliver knockout blow to India
West Indies 171 for 2 (King 85*, Pooran 47) beat India 165 for 9 (Suryakumar 61, Shephard 4-31, Hosein 2-24) by eight wickets
India's multi-format tour of the Caribbean and the USA ended with a T20I series defeat to West Indies, with their lack of lower-order batting muscle and a lacklustre bowling show playing a part 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 constructed chase.
The pair put on 107 off 72 balls for the second wicket and didn't allow India a foot in the door. What seemed like it might be a challenging chase at the outset turned into a stroll, West Indies eventually getting home with 12 balls to spare to record their second straight T20I series win and their first against India since 2017.
King, Pooran blaze away
West Indies lost Kyle Mayers in the second over to Arshdeep Singh, but it only spurred them to go even harder in drizzly conditions that forced the teams to have one eye on the DLS sheet.
Cramped for room and hit on the ribs by a short delivery second ball, Pooran offered the perfect reply when he muscled Arshdeep over deep midwicket to open his account off the fourth ball he faced. Pooran then had a slice of luck when he was almost pouched by a diving Mukesh Kumar at mid-off in the third over of the innings, and he took full advantage of that by pummelling Hardik Pandya for back-to-back sixes soon after.
Pooran continued to enjoy a charmed life when a small spike on Snickometer - the thinnest of edges off the glove attempting a slog sweep - helped overturn an lbw decision off Kuldeep Yadav in the fifth over. But around all this, there was a display of sensational hitting - clean and uninhibited - to throw India's bowlers completely off the rails.
Did India err tactically?
India's decision to play six bowlers (Hardik included), which brings with it the inherent risk of their batting tapering off quickly down the order, was specifically designed it seemed to counter situations such as this. However, today, against Pooran in particular, you wondered if they were erring tactically.
Mukesh Kumar's strength as a bowler is to swing it with the new ball. Today he bowled just one over in the first 10 (the tenth). Axar Patel was handed just one over (the 15th, with West Indies needing 42 from 36) and Yuzvendra Chahal, perhaps at his lowest point in terms of confidence, was brought on in the powerplay - that over went for 14 with King welcoming him with a massive hit against the turn for six.
The only bowler to rein in the batters somewhat was Kuldeep, who varied his pace and lengths nicely. In the previous two games, Pooran was out trying to take him on. Today, Pooran was intent on learning from that and milked singles off Kuldeep, whose first three overs went for just 16.
After going neck-and-neck for much of the innings, King pipped Pooran to the half-century when he stepped out and clobbered Chahal over long-off in the 13th over to get there off 38 balls. No sooner than the shot was hit, the players went off following a lightning warning.
Upon resumption, with West Indies needing 47 off 42, Hardik threw the ball to Tilak Varma for some offspin, and he struck second ball when Pooran gloved an attempted reverse-sweep to slip. But Shai Hope came in and played a sparkling hand, allaying any fears of a slowdown, by sealing victory with a six down the ground.
Suryakumar, Tilak help India recover after early blows
At the toss Hardik said India wanted to challenge themselves by batting first, but three overs in, it seemed already that they had quite a task on their hands.
Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, the architects of the carnage from 24 hours earlier, fell cheaply to Akeal Hosein's left-arm spin. Jaiswal was done in by the skid off the pitch while Gill was out lbw to a sweep he could've reviewed, with replays confirming the ball would've missed leg stump.
Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak offset that early pressure with a superb counterattack. Tilak was especially dismissive of Alzarri Joseph as he took him for 4, 6, 4, 4 in the sixth over. The six, in particular, was audacious - he swept Joseph off length to the deep-square-leg fence.
At the other end, Suryakumar was having fun of his own, lofting Hosein, flat-batting a sweep down the ground for four and standing tall and driving elegantly.
India's third-wicket pair had added 49 off five overs to kick the innings into fourth gear before Roston Chase's brilliance accounted for Tilak. What seemed an innocuous push for a single turned lethal when Chase, in his follow-through, ran to his right and put in a full-length dive to grab the ball, and belted out a belated appeal. It seemed it would be a mandatory check for a bump ball (Chase's team-mates had not even appealed), but again it proved to be much more than that: wild fist bumping ensued in the West Indies camp when replays confirmed Tilak had lobbed the ball straight off the bat and his cameo was nipped in the bud.
Then Sanju Samson 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 run the risk of exposing the lower order too early and looked to bat himself in. India went from overs 10.2 to 14 without a single boundary, before Suryakumar launched Shepherd and then Joseph for six - the latter an inside-out six over cover to raise his half-century off 38 balls. At 121 for 4 in 15.5 overs, India seemed to have set themselves up for a final assault when the rain came down again.
... Followed by a collapse
Hardik fell soon after resumption when he picked out long-on a delivery after he had smacked Shepherd over the long-off boundary. Suryakumar followed in the next over when West Indies overturned a not-out lbw decision via the DRS. The lower order just unravelled from there; a fortuitous boundary from the last man Mukesh (edged past the keeper) dragged India to 165 when, at one point, they had looked good for 190. The way the chase shaped up, perhaps even that may have not been enough.