India were pushed into a corner in the seven match series as a Chris Gayle-powered West Indies took a crucial 3-2 lead with a comfortable five wicket victory in the fifth one-day international at Vadodara today.
Gayle hit his third century of the series as West Indies bettered India's score of 290 for eight with seven balls to spare, continuing the trend of teams batting second successfully chasing big totals.
However, it was Gayle's opening partner Wavell Hinds who laid the foundation for the successful run chase by West Indies, hitting a blistering 80 off just 61 balls including ten fours and five sixes.
Gayle, who had played a similar blazing knock in the previous match at Ahmedabad, was completely overshadowed by his partner, later declared man-of-the-match, before taking on the baton to lead West Indies to a fluent win in a match reduced to 48 overs a side due to a delayed start caused by overnight dew.
Gayle made 101 off 107 balls with ten fours and three sixes before being declared caught behind in a debatable decision.
India will now have to win the next two matches in Jodhpur and Vijayawada to clinch the one-day series.
Earlier, the home team rode on fine half-centuries by V.V.S. Laxman, skipper Saurav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag to post a competitive total. Laxman top-scored with 71 while Sehwag struck a characteristic 52 off just 39 balls. Ganguly chipped in with 52 runs.
The chinks in the Indian bowling were exposed yet again as Gayle and Hinds shred the home team attack into pieces.
Lakshmipathy Balaji had a nightmarish start to his international career, being hit for 44 runs from four overs
while Javagal Srinath was taken for 42 runs from six overs on a pitch that was offering some help to the spinners.
India used as many as nine bowlers but only left-arm spinner Murali Kartik and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh were effective. Kartik claimed his first one-day wicket when he dismissed Ramnaresh Sarwan and finished with impressive figures of 1-38 from his ten overs. Harbhajan took two for 53.
Gayle, who had hit centuries in Nagpur and Ahmedabad too, and Hinds flayed the Indian attack in the first 14 overs, taking the score to 126 without loss when the fielding restrictions were removed.
Hinds indulged in the big hitting, raising his ninth one-day fifty off just 32 balls with nine fours and two huge
sixes. He was particularly severe on the spinners as he repeatedly came out to loft them over the ground.
It was Sehwag who finally got rid of Hinds when the batsman miscued a sweep shot and top-edged an easy catch to Ganguly. The first wicket partnership produced 132 runs in 17 overs.
Just three runs were added to the West Indian total when Harbhajan foxed Marlon Samuels with an away-going delivery that the batsman failed to read and edged for Ganguly to take a spectacular diving catch in the slips.
The fall of two quick wickets saw India pull themselves back into the game but Gayle and Sarwan fought back with a 83-run stand for the third wicket.
This was the most quiet phase of the West Indian innings as the Indian spinners, especially Kartik, bowled really well. But the two batsmen kept knocking off singles and twos even as boundaries eluded the West Indians for nearly 16 overs.
Kartik dismissed Sarwan with a beautiful delivery that spun away from the batsman and took an outside edge which kissed wicketkeeper Rahul Dravid's gloves on way to Ganguly at first slip. Sarwan made 34 off 55 balls.
West Indies lost two wickets at the same score of 239 when Shivnarine Chanderpaul was run out cheaply for four and Gayle fell immediately after reaching his century.
But Ricardo Powell and Carl Hooper denied any comeback chance to the Indians and saw their team home in the 47th over. Powell remained unbeaten on 30 from 26 balls while Hooper was not out on run-a-ball 21.
Earlier, the Indians faltered a bit in the final overs after getting a promising start from Ganguly and Sehwag.
The two openers put on 88 runs in just 11 overs with Sehwag blasting nine fours and a six as he once again outscored his captain.
Collins took heavy punishment from Sehwag who hit the bowler for five of his nine boundaries. Collins gave away 15 runs in his second over and eight in his next before being taken off with first spell figures of 3-0-26-0.
Sehwag reached his half-century off just 37 balls before Collymore struck for West Indies in the 11th over. Sehwag gave a catch to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at mid-on, bringing to an end a sparkling knock.
Ganguly, who was left way behind, and Laxman were associated in 46-run second wicket stand before India lost their second wicket at 134. Ganguly was bowled by Hooper for a 55-ball 53 which contained eight hits to the fence.
India had been scoring well above six runs an over in the first 20 overs and Laxman and Dravid ensured that the run rate was maintained even though the boundaries were less frequent.
Laxman and Dravid, who had shared a 103-run partnership in Ahmedabad, scored mostly through singles and twos and took the score to 212 in the 36th over before a slight slump started.
Dravid was caught in the deep by a diving Chris Gayle when he mistimed a pull shot against part-time off-spinner Marlon Samuels. Dravid's 33 came off 36 balls and included three fours.
Laxman, who in the meanwhile had reached his ninth one-day fifty, started taking risks and repeatedly came down the track to chip the ball over the in-fielders.
Just when it was time to launch the final offensive, India lost a couple of important wickets which helped the West Indian bowlers to prevent the big hits.
Mohammad Kaif chipped a simple catch to Ramnaresh Sarwan at deep mid-wicket and Laxman soon followed him in the pavilion when he lobbed the ball straight into the hands of Hooper at mid-off. Both the wickets were claimed by Collins.
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