Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to finish off the match and was dismissed off the final delivery with just two runs needed for victory as India went down by one run in a thrilling finish in the first T20 International against West Indies in Florida, on Saturday.
Chasing a record target of 246 runs, India narrowly missed the highest ever successful run chase in T20 Internationals despite Lokesh Rahul’s maiden hundred as they finished on 244 for four in reply to West Indies’ total of 245 for six.
Rahul, who was included in the playing eleven ahead of Shikhar Dhawan, smashed an unbeaten 110 from 51 balls with the help of 12 fours and five sixes. He helped India make a strong reply after Evin Lewis had blasted 100 from 49 balls to help West Indies post a massive total.
India needed just eight runs from the final over with the well set Rahul and captain Dhoni out in the middle. However, the experienced Dwayne Bravo kept his cool and despite having Dhoni dropped off the first ball of the final over, he kept his nerve to help his team steal an unlikely victory.
India needed two runs to win from the final ball to win but captain Dhoni, who made a quickfire 43 from 25 balls, failed to carry his team to victory and was caught by Marlon Samuels at short thirdman much to the disappointment of a large number of Indian supporters at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground, in Lauderhill.
India failed to pull off the highest ever successful run chase which still stands at 236 for six which the West Indies pulled off against South Africa in January last year in Johannesburg.
Dhoni’s men, however, had the consolation of knocking off the highest ever T20I second innings score which is also the same 236 for six which the West Indies made against South Africa.
Rahul, who was dropped on 36 by Andre Russell, became the third Indian to hit a century — and the highest scorer — in T20 Internationals after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma.
Playing in his fourth T20I, Rahul reached to his 100 in 46 balls, the joint second fastest in T20 Internationals along with South African Faf du Plessis and just one ball short of South African Richard Levi’s fastest 45-ball hundred against New Zealand in 2012 in Hamilton.
The match, the first international outing for India in United States, was in fact a competition of show of batting prowess between the two teams on a featherbed of a pitch on a small ground at Lauderhill and Dhoni’s men came second in the end.
Earlier, a hapless Indian bowlers were mercilessly hammered for a record 21 sixes as the West Indies posted the third highest ever T20 International innings score of 245 for six in their 20 overs in a sensational batting display by the Caribbeans in Florida, on Saturday.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to insert the opposition in backfired as the West Indies batsmen rained 13 fours and 21 sixes on a flat pitch at Lauderhill ground. None of the Indian bowlers came out unscathed as they were butchered by the batting pyrotechnics of the world champions.
The earlier highest number of sixes in an innings was 19 hit by Netherlands against Ireland in 2014.
Their mammoth total of 245 for six was the third highest innings total behind 260 for six scored by Sri Lanka against Kenya in 2007 and 248 for six by Australia against England in 2013. This was the
highest ever T20 International score against India by any team, surpassing the 219 for four by South Africa in Johannesburg in March 2012.
Rookie opener Evin Lewis, playing in his only second T20 International, starred with the bat as he slammed 100 from 49 balls; having hit five fours and nine sixes, putting on 126 runs for the first wicket from a mere 9.3 overs with Johnson Charles, who started off the fireworks with a rampaging innings of 79 from 33 balls.
Lewis also hit the fifth fastest hundred in T20 Internationals as he reached the milestone in just 48 balls.
At one stage, West Indians threatened to post the highest ever T20 International score around the 275-run mark as they reached 199 for one at the end of 15 overs but India made fine a comeback in the final five overs, conceding just 46 runs and taking five wickets in the process.
Except for Ravichandran Ashwin, who conceded just 36 runs in his four overs, all the other five bowlers went for more than 10 runs an over. Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah picked up two wickets each in the last few overs to check West Indies’ total.
The beginning was ominous for India as Mohammed Shami gave away 17 runs in the first over itself with Charles smashing him for a six and two boundaries. Shami was taken off and Bumrah was introduced in the third over.
The West Indies continued to score at a brisk pace with Bhuvneshwar Kumar conceding 20 runs in his first two overs. Bumrah was also taken to task with Lewis hoisting him for two sixes and a four to amass 18 runs from the fifth over.
The Caribbeans reached to their 50 in just 4.1 overs and the Indians were left to bring in Ashwin into the attack in the sixth over.
Ashwin, the best Indian bowler in the Test series against the West Indians, also suffered as he was hit for two sixes by Charles who reached to his fifty from just 20 balls with the help of five fours and four sixes.
The raining of fours and sixes went unabated with yet another Indian bowler, Jadeja was taken to the cleaners as Lewis pummelled him for two sixes over the leg side to power the Windies past the 100-run in 7.5 overs at a rate of over 13 an over.
In the 10th over, India got their first breakthrough with Shami removing Charles of a yorker-length delivery on off stump. Charles looked to get across and play a lap sweep but missed it completely and was bowled.
The West Indies were still placed at a commanding position at 132 for one at the halfway mark.
Medium pacer Stuart Binny, who was introduced in the 11th over, was hit for five sixes by Lewis for a total of 32 runs, narrowly escaping the ignominy of being hit for six sixes in an over.
Two wickets in the 16th over off the bowling of Jadeja put the brakes on the West Indian innings. The left-arm spinner accounted for Andre Russell (22), who was trapped leg before wicket before he took a catch off his own bowling to dismiss the dangerous Lewis.
Three West Indies wickets fell in the final over with captain Carlos Brathwaite (14) was run out by Bumrah himself before scalping Kieron Pollard (22) and Lendl Simmons (0) off consecutive deliveries.
India suffered an early jolt in their run chase when Ajinkya Rahane was caught at thirdman off Andre Russell for seven with Bravo taking a sensational catch near the boundary line.
Rohit Sharma led the fightback as he went after the bowlers in the early overs and brought the Indian innings back on track, smashing 62 from 28 balls.
India’s batting mainstay Virat Kohli also perished cheaply when he was caught down the leg side off Bravo for 16 after he attempted to pull a short delivery.
However, Rohit and Rahul rallied with some attacking batting in the middle overs. They were very severe on mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who went for 50 runs in his three overs.
Rahul hit Narine for a six and two fours to take 16 runs from the sixth over while Rohit hit two sixes in his next over as the Indians scored at 12 runs an over to reach 100 in the ninth over.
Rohit raced to his half-century from just 22 balls as he hoisted Kieron Pollard for a six in the 10th over, while Rahul completed the landmark from 26 balls as the Indians progressed nicely, hitting boundaries at regular intervals to stay in touch with the asking rate.
Rohit was dismissed in the 12th over, caught at deep midwicket off Pollard.
Dhoni came out and with Rahul going great, he played the second fiddle as India reached 182 for 3 at the end of 15 overs, needing 64 runs from the final five overs to win the match.
India got 11 runs from the 16th over before bringing up their 200 in the next over.
Just when things started getting out of hand, Dhoni responded by hitting two sixes off Russell and Rahul also got one six in the same over to score 20 runs from the 17th over and bring the equation down to 33 runs from three overs for victory.
Rahul brought up his century in the 19th over as he slashed a short ball from Russell over thirdman region for a six. He took just 46 balls to complete the landmark, having hit 11 fours and five sixes.
That left India with just eight runs to score from the final over for victory and with Dhoni out in the middle, India were the favourites.
However, Bravo bowled a superb last over and despite Dhoni’s drop off the first ball, he brought all his experience into play and helped West Indies escape with a narrow one-run victory.