A 50,000-plus crowd had turned up at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium to watch cricket return to the city of Lucknow after more than two decades and with Diwali just a day away Rohit Sharma decided to unleash the fireworks in advance. The Indian captain smoked a sublime 111 not out in just 61 deliveries becoming the first batsman to record four Twenty20 International centuries as the hosts walloped the Windies by 71 runs to seal the three-match series 2-0 with one game to go.
India courtesy a rollicking ton by Rohit backed up by crucial contributions from Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul notched up a mammoth 195/2. An all-round effort by the bowlers then restricted the visitors to 124/9 in their 20 overs as India claimed a rather easy win on Tuesday.
The surface seemed like it had an even covering of grass and understandably the Windies captain decided to put India into bat after winning the toss. Oshane Thomas, the 21-year-old pace sensation, started off with a maiden to Rohit while Dhawan, who has been somewhat out of touch in recent times, too started sedately as India scored just the 20 runs in the first four overs.
However, once they got used to the pace of the newly laid pitch, the duo did not take time to open their shoulders. Rohit got the boundary counter running by welcoming left-armer Khary Pierre into the bowling crease with a lofted drive over mid-off for a four. He then slammed Thomas over the long-off fence for the first maximum of the innings before Dhawan got into the act by thumping the lanky pacer for two fours, one a swivel pull wide of midwicket and then a glorious front-foot drive through the covers off a half-volley.
Once he got his first boundary out of the way, Rohit looked in ominous touch as the silken strokes started flowing from his blade. He smoked Pierre for a massive half a dozen over mid-on before laying into the Windies captain Carlos Brathwaite thumping him for a six over deep fine leg followed by a crunching four to the deep mid-wicket fence. During the course of his innings the opener also became the leading run-scorer for India in T20Is surpassing Virat Kohli.
Dhawan, on the other hand, struggled to get his timing but hung on nevertheless. He got a life when on 28 as Keemo Paul dropped a fairly straightforward chance at the deep midwicket boundary before the southpaw became the sixth Indian batsman to record 1000 T20I runs.
Rohit continued in his merry ways carting the Windies bowlers to all parts of the ground and soon reached his 16th T20I half-century with a delicate nudge between long-on and midwicket. The duo brought up their 100-run stand in just the 13th over but Dhawan fell soon after failing to capitalise on a good start. The left-hander swept Fabian Allen wide of deep square leg but could not keep the ball down as Nicholas Pooran ran around to his left and completed a good diving catch to end Dhawan’s innings on 43.
Rishabh Pant (4) got a promotion to No.3 but failed to latch onto the opportunity and fell looking to slog sweep Pierre out of the ground only to give Shimron Hetmyer a simple chance at deep midwicket.
Even with the successive fall of wickets, Rohit remained unfazed and went about collecting boundaries at will. He was joined by Rahul in the middle who hit his straps immediately with two consecutive fours off Brathwaite as India brought up their 150 in the 17th over.
With eight needed to reach a century in the last over, Rohit first got an outside edge off Brathwaite that sailed to the vacant third man boundary for a four before he brought out the ramp shot off the very next ball to reach a record fourth century in T20Is in just 58 deliveries. He thumped the air in delight bringing the Lucknow crowd to their feet and then celebrated reaching the landmark with another six – his seventh of the innings – to help India finish on a high. The Indian captain remained unbeaten on 111, his innings laced with eight fours and seven sixes while Rahul smashed a crucial 14-ball 26 which included two fours and a six.
None of the Windies bowlers managed to make much of an impression with only Thomas going at under seven runs an over.
Chasing a total of that magnitude was always going to be tough and the Indian new-ball bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed, made the going even tougher for the visitors. Bhuvneshwar was clobbered for a straight six in the very first over by Shai Hope (6), but that was all he could manage with Ahmed castling the opener with a short of a length ball that took his off stump.
Hetmyer slammed Ahmed for three fours but the left-arm pacer soon got his revenge when the opener mistimed a back of a length delivery straight into the hands of Dhawan at long on for 15.
With the Windies scoring just 39 runs in the Powerplay for the loss of two wickets, the need of the hour was big hits, but the Indian bowlers never allowed that to happen. Bravo got a few boundaries in but soon fell for 23 to Kuldeep Yadav with Rohit taking a screamer at first slip. The wrist-spinner then castled Pooran in the very over as the visitors slumped to 52/4 in 8 overs.
Jasprit Bumrah then got his name in the wickets column when he flummoxed Kieron Pollard (6) with a sharp bouncer that caught the top edge of the batsman for an easy caught & bowled. The end was nigh thereafter as the required rate touched 17 with Windies losing wickets at constant intervals.
Keemo Paul (20) and Brathwaite (15*) did strike a few sixes at the fag end sake with Yadav bearing the brunt of most of these but they came a bit too late for the Windies’ sake.
For India, Bhuvneshwar was the most economical of all bowlers going just three runs per over finishing with 2/12 in his four overs. Bumrah, Yadav and Ahmed all chipped in with two wickets as well.