Dravid shines in Indian win

A fantastic innings from Indian captain Rahul Dravid laid the platform for a thrilling victory over the West Indies in the first one-day international, with a ball to spare. Dramatic scenes developed at Sabina Park, until Mohammed Kaif drove the penultimate ball of the game to the boundary, sealing a hard-fought victory for India.

When initially there seemed to be no prospect of play, as the rain pelted down overnight and early morning, the fans at Sabina Park were pleasantly stunned and treated to a sensational game of cricket in the series opener. The outstanding new drainage system at the ground stole the spotlight at the outset. Play then began after a delay of just an hour from the scheduled start. A reduction saw 45 overs allocated to each team, further concentrating the action-packed nature of the clash.

It was a tale of two centuries, as earlier Chris Gayle produced an epic innings of 123 to lead the West Indies to the challenging score of 251/6. Gayle faced just 131 balls and struck 18 fours and 2 sixes in an innings of such dominance that the next best West Indian contribution was Brian Lara’s 35.

The game shot off to a blistering start with 74 runs in the first 10 overs, as the West Indian openers plundered the mediocre Indian seamers after being inserted. Gayle was the aggressor, but Morton (23) too looked at ease at the crease before his demise to the bowling of Agarkar.

It was the start of an enterprising day for the veteran seam bowler. Agarkar later claimed the wicket of Gayle to a sharp catch by Dravid, and finished with 2 for 38. His was a rare controlled and effective display in a largely impotent Indian attack. Only Harbhajan Singh maintained any measure of consistency against the Caribbean batsmen, bowling 9-2-33-1.

Despite their lacklustre beginning, however, the Indian bowlers came back well at the death of the innings. They found the West Indies struggling to make a final push of acceleration, and it proved crucial in the greater context of the game.

India set about to chase the target with a mixed gameplan. From a position of 86/3 the momentum appeared to be with the West Indies, especially with dangerous Virender Sehwag (22) and Yuvraj Singh (12) among the men dismissed.

It was then that Kaif was united with his captain to commence an outstanding partnership and an unconvincing match-winning innings. Dropped on 6 and 35, the right-hander proceeded to make the West Indies pay for a shocking fielding display en route to 66 not out.

At the other end it was all balance and fluency in the person of Dravid. Opening the innings, Dravid batted calmly and intelligently. Strike rotation and forceful running through the middle overs defined his innings, and he batted for 101 balls before picking out Jerome Taylor at long on with his 102nd. A total of 10 fours and 2 sixes laced the scorebook alongside Dravid’s name, and it was truly a masterful innings that it outshone the antics of Gayle earlier in the day.

The wicket completed a 125-run stand and invited Mahendra Singh Dhoni to the crease. India continued to cruise toward victory with the explosive presence of Dhoni, but the procession was halted abruptly when Taylor bowled the 42nd over for just 1 run.

It was a dramatic turn around for the young man, who had previously bowled 7 overs for 48 runs. One over that returned the game to a contest by re-inventing the equation as 24 runs needed off 18 balls, from 25 off 24.

The demands of the chase purchased a boundary from the bat of Dhoni then his wicket to a simple catch in the deep. Bravo was the successful bowler, plying his trade in an excellent late innings spell. The dismissal of Dhoni brought the game to life further, and a succession of close run out chances and a near catch at long off ensured the drama continued into the final over.

Demons derived from the missed chances against Kaif returned in full force. With 2 runs needed off the final 2 deliveries of the game, he stroked Bravo through extra cover and celebrated the win. A thrilling finale in the darkness, and a day that began with no play likely, ended with 89.5 overs of high-octane cricket and a 1-0 series lead for India.

West Indies 251-6 (45 overs)
Chris Gayle 123, Brian Lara 35, Runako Morton 23
Ajit Agarkar 2-38, Harbhajan Singh 1-33

India 254-5 (44.5 overs)
Rahul Dravid 105, Mohammed Kaif 66*
Ian Bradshaw 2-40, Dwayne Bravo 2-50

India won by 5 wickets.

Cricket Web Man of the Match: R Dravid – 105, 1 catch

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