Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten 68 as India overcame a shaky start to notch up an easy four-wicket win over the West Indies in the first one-day international of the five-match series at the Queen’s Park Oval on Monday.
Chasing a modest 215-run target, Rohit anchored the Indian innings and together with captain Suresh Raina (43) raised 80 runs for the fifth wicket to guide India home in 44.5 overs after the visitors lost their first three wickets for just 61 runs.
Rohit’s unbeaten knock came off 75 balls during which he struck three fours and a six while Raina scored his 43 from 50 deliveries with the help of four boundaries.
At the top, opener Shikhar Dhawan (51 off 76) notched up his maiden half-century and guided the chase initially to help India’s cause.
Leg-spinner Anthony Martin (2/39) was the best bowler in action for the home team while pacer Ravi Rampaul also snared two wickets but gave away 58 runs in the process.
Earlier, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels scored hard-earned half centuries as West Indies struggled to score a modest 214/9.
Opting to bat, West Indies witnessed a wobbly start to their innings as they lost their first three wickets scoring just 59 runs in 18.2 overs.
But Sarwan and Samuels then paired up to resurrect the innings with an 82-run fourth-wicket partnership that came of 118 balls.
While Sarwan’s 56 came off 94 balls and was studded with only five boundaries, Samuels took 75 deliveries to score his 55. He hit three fours and two sixes.
The stand between Sarwan and Samuels was the only silver lining in the West Indies innings as the hosts scored 73 runs in the last 12 overs losing as many as six wickets.
Down the order, Dwayne Bravo tried his bit to up the scoring rate with a 20-ball 22 while opener Kirk Edwards (21 off 45) was the next best scorer for the Caribbean side.
For India, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh relished at the low and slow Queen’s Park Oval pitch with figures of three wickets for 32, while Praveen Kumar (2/37), Munaf Patel (2/47) and captain Suresh Raina (2/23) shared six wickets among them.
Coming onto bat, the Indians found it difficult to bat with fluency on a sluggish Queeen’s Park Oval wicket and against the niggardly line of West Indian bowlers, especially leg-spinning duo of Martin and Devendra Bishoo, who conceded only 76 runs from their 20 overs and picked up three wickets between them.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy was an excellent foil to his spinners and it was only the depth of India’s middle order which gave them a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Openers Parthiv Patel (13) and Dhawan (51) had smoothly moved to 29 runs by the sixth over when a smart throw from Dwayne Bravo at mid-on found the former short of his crease at the batsman’s end.
Virat Kohli (2) aimed a lordly drive at an away going delivery from Ravi Rampaul and nicked a straight forward catch to Carlton Baugh behind the stumps as India slumped to 34/2.
Badrinath then under-edged a cut off Bishoo into the gloves of Baugh to leave India in testy waters at 61/3.
Dhawan and Rohit then soldiered on to bring up the hundred of the innings, which also was the moment to celebrate the former’s maiden ODI fifty.
Dhawan appeared to have got carried away by the occasion as he slogged-swept Martin from outside the off-stump to hole out to Lendl Simmons at deep midwicket.
Dhawan played a useful hand of 51 off 76 balls with three fours and a six.
Rohit and Raina then played like seasoned campaigners and first laid the foundation of their stand and then slipped into top gear to gallop towards the target.
Rohit reached his half century with a gorgeous backfoot drive off Martin into the covers in the 39th over and ensured he stayed till the end to take India past the finishing line in the 45th over.
Raina, on the other hand, thrived under pressure and batted with authority to make 43 from 50 balls.
The West Indies fought gamely but they didn’t have enough runs on the board to stretch the visitors.
Earlier, the West Indian batsmen failed to rotate strike for most part of their innings and could score only 70 runs from the 20 overs of frontline Indian spinners — Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra.
Even the part-time bowlers, Yusuf Pathan, Raina and Virat Kohli conceded only 54 runs from the fifth bowler’s quota to strangulate the West Indian innings.
Despite some early play-and-miss and a dropped chance in the slips, the hosts found themselves tottering at 28 for two by the eighth over after electing to bat.
Opener Lendl Simmons was on naught when he was reprieved by Rohit Sharma off Munaf in the first slip, but despite the life he scored only six runs before an over-hit was caught by Harbhajan off Praveen at mid-off.
Young prodigy Darren Bravo departed in the very next over when he drove at a moving delivery without much foot movement and this time the thick edge was well-accepted by Rohit in the lone slip.
West Indies then began the long haul of recovery as painfully slow Kirk Edwards (21) and Sarwan dropped anchor for the next 11-odd overs.
But Edwards departed next as he pulled too early at a slow delivery from Harbhajan and a leading edge went high up in the air for Virat Kohli to accept in the slips.
It made the score 59/3 in the 19th over but there was no break in the tempo as Sarwan and Samuels buckled themselves up for the long, hard and boring grind.
The crowd was thrilled when Samuels made the most of a free-hit against Kohli and hoisted him over widish long on for six and then Sarwan steered and flicked Munaf for two consecutive fours to move past his half-century.
However, the stands fell silent when Sarwan edged an innocuous Munaf delivery down the leg side to Parthiv Patel behind the stumps.
Samuels too reached his half century in stirring fashion with a powerfully hit six down the ground off Amit Mishra but after doing all the hard work he suffered a soft dismissal when a Raina delivery dislodged his stumps after hitting the inside of his pads.
Samuels departed in the 42nd over with the West Indies scoreboard reading 177/5.
Harbhajan finished his final spell with two critical wickets of Dwayne Bravo, who was stumped by Parthiv and Carton Baugh (16) lbw while attempting a sweep.
Raina then showed up West Indies batter’s complete ineptness against spin when he picked up two late wickets to leave the hosts gasping for breath.