So promising across the first three ODIs West Indies’ batting unraveled when a share of the series was still up for grabs. Having been bowled out for 153 on a flat Brabourne deck in the fourth ODI, the visitors did even worse on a trickier pitch in Thiruvananthapuram, folding for 104 after choosing to bat first.
Virat Kohli, India’s captain, was happy to chase at a ground where he felt dew would be a “massive factor” in the second innings, under lights. But the match didn’t even last as far as the scheduled 45-minute interval.
West Indies were bowled out in 31.5 overs, and India hunted down their target in a mere 14.5, as Rohit Sharma stroked an unbeaten 63 off 56 balls, adding an unbroken 99 for the second wicket with Kohli. Rohit hit four sixes – all clean hits, as they needed to be on one of the larger grounds in India – to become only the second India batsman to get past 200 sixes in ODIs.
The only spell of positivity for West Indies was the new-ball spell of the pacy Oshane Thomas, who got Shikhar Dhawan to chop on for the second time in two ODI meetings, had Kohli dropped by Jason Holder at first slip after getting one to lift nastily at him, and had Rohit edging an away-seamer behind only for a no-ball call to deny him another wicket.
Thereafter, it was all Rohit and Kohli who, having got past some early difficulty against the slowness of the pitch, entertained the Thiruvananthapuram crowd who might otherwise have felt shortchanged at getting to watch only 46.4 overs of the promised 100.
The contest lasted only that long, thanks to West Indies’ inability to adapt to a slow pitch on which the ball held up and made driving on the up a hazardous prospect.
It was the swing that began their collapse. By the tenth ball of their innings, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, swinging it away from the left-hander, and Jasprit Bumrah, swinging it into the right-hander, had made Kieran Powell and Shai Hope pay for playing away from the body.
Then came the longest partnership of the innings, of 34, between Rovman Powell – who struggled to find his feet after being promoted up the order, with West Indies sacrificing regular opener Chandrapaul Hemraj to add Oshane Thomas to their pace attack – and Marlon Samuels, who came out playing his shots at the end of a lean series with the bat.
It looked pretty while it lasted, as Samuels drove Bhuvneshwar past mid-off and whipped his next ball – from virtually the same off-stumpish line – wide of mid-on. Another free-flowing drive off Khaleel Ahmed, in the next over, carried all the way over the straight boundary.
Kohli responded by bringing on Ravindra Jadeja. His first over, the tenth of West Indies’ innings, was a maiden, and through that over it was clear that Samuels was itching to keep driving and that Jadeja, teasing him with his changes of pace and a length just short of driveable, was not going to allow him to. Having already inside-edged once while driving away from his body, Samuels fell in Jadeja’s second over, reaching out once again, this time only managing to pop a catch to extra-cover as the ball stopped on him.
That stand broken, India kept chipping away at the wickets. Shimron Hetmyer played back to Jadeja when he should have been forward, Rovman and Fabian Allen were out hooking well-directed short balls from Khaleel and Bumrah, and Jason Holder, who had looked good while getting to 25, chipped a catch to mid-off as another ball held up off the surface.
The tail survived just long enough for Jadeja, who took a five-over break after an unbroken first spell of eight overs, to return and bag two more wickets to finish with 4 for 34. It was his second four-wicket haul in eight matches since his comeback to the ODI team during the Asia Cup in September.