Windies, the No. 9 ranked ODI team, defending a below 300-run target comprehensively against India by 43 runs despite Virat Kohli scoring a hundred – can this result be termed as an upset?
Well, it is highly likely that an Indian fan will answer in affirmative as prior to this game, on home soil, their team had never lost an ODI while chasing when Kohli scored a ton.
But as they say, cricket never siezes to amaze us.
On Saturday night in Pune, Kohli's 38th ODI ton and third consecutive in this series, was not enough for the hosts to chase down 284 on a track which looked two-paced in the first half but got better for batting under lights. Apart from Kohli's 107, no other Indian batsman could go past 35. The other batsmen tried to spend some time in the middle but could not get going, which led to India's downfall. The Windies bowlers kept them on a tight leash and eventually had the last laugh, primarily because of their perseverance.
This Windies attack doesn't have a bowler with express pace, who is capable of running through a batting line-up or someone who can trap the batsmen in the web of mystery spin. In the first two matches, it more or less seemed like a one-dimensional bowling unit. So, at the halfway stage of the third ODI, the odds were heavily favouring the Indians.
However, Holder's boys did not throw in the towel. During this limited-over's leg of the tour, on numerous occasions, Windies players have made it clear that they are not here to be just competitive. That their only goal is to win the series. On Saturday, the boys from the Caribbean proved that those talks weren't an exaggeration.
They knew their limitations as a bowling unit and had a simple gameplan – stop the run flow, if wickets aren't coming.
"You’ve got to take wickets first and foremost. But we tried to stick to our plans and bowl economically," said Ashley Nurse, the Man of the Match of Saturday's fixture during his post-match chat with the media. "We put them under pressure, stopped them from scoring and that made chances. So just about going out there trying to keep everything to our plans. We have plans before we come into the game."
For the major part of the Indian innings, Windies were ready to give Kohli a single at the start of the over in order to attack the batsman at the other end. In the middle-overs, at times Holder had 6 to 7 fielders to stop the ones and twos and keep Kohli away from strike as much as possible.
"As I said before, don’t try to play his (Kohli's) game," explaining their bowling plan, Nurse further revealed. "Try to put him under pressure and that will put the other batsmen under pressure if he’s not scoring. They’ll be under pressure to score as well."
Only 46 runs out of Kohli's 107 were scored from the boundaries, which is a testament in itself that the Windies gameplan was pretty successful. Also, constant fall of wickets from the other end had forced the Indian skipper to play more conservatively. Whenever India looked like gaining some momentum in the run-chase through a steady partnership, the bowlers bounced back with crucial breakthroughs to hang in there.
Nevertheless, it was the sheer discipline by the bowlers which kept the visitors interested. They bowled tight channels to keep the asking rate rising and eventually it forced the batsmen to make mistakes.
Someone like Nurse was implacable with his line and lengths. While bowling his off-breaks, he made apt use of the crease to create new angles and frustrate the batsmen. Debutant left-arm spinner Fabian Allen played a decent supporting role as well. In the pace department, Kemar Roach and Obed McCoy, alongside Holder, had five scalps among themselves for 132 runs in 24 overs, which in sub-continental conditions, is a pretty impressive effort.
And by the time Samuels castled Kohli while the latter went for an expansive shot, both teams were quite certain of the direction in which the match was heading.
In modern-day cricket, amid all the analysis and well-calculated gameplans, going back to basics at times can fetch the desired results. The Windies bowling effort in the third ODI is a classic testament to that. They were old-fashioned with their approach, but it was effective.