Navdeep Saini took 3/17 and made a dream debut as India won by four wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the Twenty20 series. (Image credit: BCCI Twitter)
Three years ago, Fort Lauderhill had witnessed 489 runs in a single Twenty20 contest between West Indies and India. Evin Lewis and KL Rahul blasted centuries as West Indies won by one run in their defence of 245. In 2019, at the same venue, it was the turn of the bowlers to fight back. Navdeep Saini, who had struggled to get into the Delhi team but managed to make it only because Gautam Gambhir backed him, put up a brilliant performance. Saini took two wickets in his first over and bowled a wicket maiden in the final over as he took 3/17 to restrict West Indies to 95/9. In response, Sunil Narine and Keemo Paul bowled brilliantly and kept West Indies in the hunt but India managed to scrape through by four wickets in their chase of 96 to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
India chose to bowl on a dry pitch and they struck immediately when Washington Sundar got the wicket of John Campbell. In the next over, Evin Lewis, who has scored two tons against India, was flummoxed by a slower knuckleball from Bhuvneshwar to fall for 0. Nicholas Pooran struck some big blows but Saini made an immediate impact. His first wicket came courtesy a pacy short ball which Pooran top-edged to the keeper and in the very next ball, Shimron Hetmyer dragged a short ball outside off back onto the stumps.
With India striking at regular intervals, West Indies found the going incredibly tough. Kieron Pollard was batting with confidence and he launched two sixes off Krunal Pandya. Pollard found no support at the other end and wickets tumbled at the other end. In the final over, with Pollard nearing his 15th fifty, Saini produced a brilliant over where he nailed the wide yorker brilliantly and managed to deny Pollard his fifty by opting for a smart review as West Indies floundered to 95/9.
In response, Shikhar Dhawan was LBW to Sheldon Cottrell for 1 but Rohit Sharma looked in good touch. Kohli struggled to find his timing going on a sluggish wicket but Rohit kept the scoreboard ticking. Rohit blasted a six and four off Cottrell but in the quest for aggression holed out to long on for 24. Rishabh Pant, the first choice keeper for the entire West Indies tour, holed out to long leg first ball as India wobbled. Manish Pandey struck some glorious shots but when he and Kohli fell in quick succession, the game seemed evenly poised.
Sluggishly, Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja made progress and they benefited from some loose West Indies fielding in the end. However, the target was too little to cause India any panic barring a major miracle and Sundar sealed the deal with a six as India started their tour of the West Indies in not such an ideal fashion.