PORT OF SPAIN: India surged back into contention in the Tri-Nation Series with a crushing 102-run victory over the West Indies in the fourth match at the Queen's Park Oval on Friday.
At the bottom of the standings following defeats in Jamaica in their first two matches of the competition, the World Cup holders rebounded with a tremendous all-round effort in the sultry Trinidad conditions.
Put in by home captain Dwayne Bravo, the Champions Trophy winners amassed 311 for seven batting first and then earned a bonus point to go with the comprehensive win in restricting the home side to 171 all out after the Windies were set a revised target of 274 off 39 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis system following a 90-minute interruption for rain.
West Indies have little time to lick their wounds as they face Sri Lanka on Sunday before the preliminary phase of the series concludes on Tuesday with the Indians taking on the Sri Lankans.
The Caribbean side still top the table with nine points but India have joined Sri Lanka on five, although they still trail on net run-rate, leaving all the possibilities open ahead of the remaining fixtures.
With injured regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni looking on approvingly, stand-in skipper Virat Kohli led from the front with an attacking innings of 102 - his 14th ODI century - in pacing India to their formidable total.
He was given an excellent platform courtesy of an opening partnership of 123 between Shikhar Dhawan (69) and Rohit Sharma (46) and was in no mood to waste such a promising foundation, blasting his way to the hundred in the final over of the innings off 83 deliveries with 13 fours and two sixes.
He struck the ball cleanly and powerfully from the start of his innings, and even though wickets were falling regularly at the other end, the attacking right-hander was able to gradually raise the tempo of his innings to the point that he was in fully cry and dominating a seventh-wicket partnership of 90 with Ravi Ashwin (25 not out) off just 52 deliveries.
“More than my performance, I'm really happy that the team won, and with the bonus point to get back into contention,” said a delighted Kohli after victory was formalised.
“When you've got three quality teams in a competition like this, you can expect turnarounds like what happened here. I'm just happy we've got the result we wanted today so we'll see what happens on Sunday to know what we have to do in our final match.”
India's bowlers were equally determined in defence of the total, the seamers showing impressive energy and hostility to strike important early blows, none more vital than Bhuvneshwar Kumar's removal of the dangerous Chris Gayle for just ten in only the third over.
Omitted from the side for what proved a humiliating 161-run defeat to Sri Lanka in Jamaica, Kumar fully justified his recall, adding the scalps of Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard for a first-ball “duck” for good measure.
Umesh Yadav also snared three wickets while the giant Ishant Sharma accounted for two key victims upon the resumption from the rain-break, including top-scorer Johnson Charles (45), during a nightmarish period of play for the home side when they slipped from 64 for two to 69 for five.
An entertaining ninth-wicket partnership of 58 between Kemar Roach and Sunil Narine threatened to deny India the critical bonus point before Ravindra Jadeja ended the unexpected resistance with two wickets in two balls.
“Chasing 300 runs was never going to be an easy target, but I honestly felt we could have done a lot better,” said a disappointed Dwayne Bravo.
“We have an important match against Sri Lanka coming up and we can't afford to make the same mistakes again.”
West Indies: D.J. Bravo (captain), C. Gayle, J. Charles, M. Samuels, D. M. Bravo, K. Pollard, D. Ramdin, D. Sammy, S. Narine, K. Roach, T. Best.
India: V. Kohli (captain), R. Sharma, S. Dhawan, M. Vijay, D. Karthik, S. Raina, R. Jadeja, R. Ashwin, B. Kumar, I. Sharma, U. Yadav.