Florida T20I: Saini shines as India defeat Windies by 4 wickets

Florida [USA]: Debutant Navdeep Saini helped India to a four-wicket win over West Indies in the first T20I here at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground in Lauderhill on Saturday.

Right-arm fast bowler Saini had a dream debut as returned with three international wickets in his four-over quota to restrict West Indies to a below-par score of 95/9. The chase seemed an easy one for India but its batsmen had to work hard as the Caribbean bowlers gave a tough fight.

India opener Shikhar Dhawan returned to the pitch nearly after two months as he was nursing a left hand injury that ruled him out of the World Cup. Dhawan’s comeback short-lived as the left-hander got leg-before off pacer Sheldon Cottrell for just one.

Opener Rohit Sharma along with his skipper Virat Kohli frustrated the West Indian bowling unit with their 28-run stand. Rohit whacked two sixes and as many boundaries before off-spinner Sunil Narine sent him back to the dugout. Rohit gave a comfortable catch to Kieron Pollard at long-on for 24.

Narine did not stop and stunned India as Rishabh Pant was caught by Cottrell at deep square for a duck. Manish Pandey joined Kohli and carried the set momentum. The duo took India past 50 without further wobble. All-rounder Keemo Paul with his pace brought West Indies back in the game as he bowled Pandey for 19.

Sheldon Cottrell returned and bagged the big wicket of Kohli for 19. The Indian skipper gave a catch to Pollard straight at midwicket. Paul picked the second wicket as he bowled Krunal Pandya for 12 to make things difficult for India.

Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar did not let anymore hiccup and took India over the line with Sundar hitting the winning six. Sundar and Jadeja remained unbeaten on eight and 10, respectively.

Earlier, the likes of Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard and Shimron Hetmyer, all became victims of Saini after India elected to bowl first. Such was the tight bowling that restricted West Indies to 95 for the loss of nine wickets in the opening T20I.

Offspinner Sundar started the proceedings for India and got an early breakthrough in the first over. West Indies opener John Campbell gave a straight catch to Pandya at deep midwicket for a two-ball nought. Evin Lewis followed Campbell in the next over as pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled the left-hander for a golden duck.

Saini in his first over picked up two wickets in two consecutive balls. Pooran, who attacked for a brief period of time with two sixes and one boundary, was caught behind for 20, while Hetmyer was bowled without scoring a run.

Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed joined the party of taking wickets as he got Rovman Powell caught behind for duck on the last ball of powerplay overs, reducing West Indies to 33/5.

Pollard along with his skipper Carlos Brathwaite held the sixth wicket and took West Indies past 50 runs. Just when the batsmen seemed to settle in, Pandya returned and dismissed Brathwaite on a return catch for just nine.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja with his left-arm spinning ability got rid of Narine for two. The left-hander was caught at boundary by Ahmed who ran to his right from the deep square. Bhuvneshwar bagged his second wicket in Keemo Paul for three. Kohli ran to his right from the cover to catch the West Indian.

Pollard, the highest individual scorer of the line-up, tried to drag the Caribbean side past 100 but Saini denied him. The fast bowler delivered a wicket-maiden final over of the innings as Pollard got leg-before after a run-a-ball 49. Wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant was credited for the dismissal as he urged Kohli to review.

India and West Indies will lock horns in the second T20I of the three-match series on August 4 at the same venue.

Brief scores: India 98/6 (Rohit Sharma 24, Manish Pandey 19, Sunil Narine 2-14) beat West Indies 95/9 (Kieron Pollard 49, Nicholas Pooran 20, Navdeep Saini 3-17) by four wickets.