VISAKHAPATNAM: Seven to win. Six to tie.That was the simple equation that Shai Hope had to contend with after 99.4 overs of a thrilling game.India, thanks to another splendid ton by Virat Kohli, had powered to 321 on what looked a like tired pitch at times. The visitors, however, upset that narrative within minutes of beginning their run chase. With Hope playing the role of sheet anchor to perfection, the mercurial Shimron Hetmyer teed off in sensational fashion, flaying all five India bowlers all over the ground.
When he finally departed after a 94 off 64 (four fours and seven monster maximums), Jason Holder & Co were more than favourites to earn their first win of what has been a trying tour. That was before stage fright began to consume the touring party. Rovman Powell, skipper Jason Holder and Ashley Nurse all succumbed after losing their heads. At the other end, Hope, who had quietly reached his second ODI century, was batting on a different plane. He looked unhurried and untroubled, even as spinners Kuldeep Yadav (3/67) and Yuzvendra Chahal (1/63) dried up runs in the death overs.
It was in this backdrop that Hope faced up to Umesh Yadav, with two balls remaining. After he swung a low full toss to cow corner for a couple, he carved a ball wide outside off-stump over point for a boundary to spark surreal scenes.
MS Dhoni, who has now been involved in seven ties across two formats, couldn’t help but manage a wry smile. Kohli, a man who had gone through the full gamut of emotions, couldn’t comprehend what he had just seen, because Ambati Rayudu, manning third man, misfielded. Rayudu did well to reach the ball, but his effort to prevent it from going for a four can politely be described as lazy.
After the match, Hope, who finished with an unbeaten 123, said he was a bit disappointed with the finish, considering the situation they were in. “We lost wickets at crucial stages. We lost Jason late. We came here to win. We’re a bit disappointed.”
The dew factor came to haunt India’s bowlers as they found it difficult to grip the ball, as Kuldeep said after the match. “It was really difficult to bowl, as gripping the ball was tough due to dew.’
Asked whether bowling first would have been a better option considering the dew factor, he said: “These things come after the game, in hindsight. Yeah. We won the toss and batted. We thought the wicket might be slow in the second innings, so we though of batting first.”