One more game and India will leave the Caribbean with the smell of leather still polluting their senses. First, Australia's pacemen gave them a whiff of it with a liberal dose of sharp-shooting deliveries and the West Indies followed up with more of the rib-ticklers to all but end India's challenge for a spot in the semi-finals.
The strategy worked to perfection as India's batsmen, hopping around all over the crease, fell short chasing a target for the second time in two games of the Super Eight. After losing by 49 runs against Australia, they finished 14 runs short of the West Indies' 169 for six last night in Barbados. Chasing leather earlier in the day, when Chris Gayle (98) brought his nonchalant destruction to the crease, India were ducking and diving as Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach went for the jugular.
There were only a couple of good-length deliveries bowled in the first six overs when the pace trio were in operation. And India had lost both their openers for 33 in that period. Murali Vijay pulled Sammy to Kieron Pollard and a nasty snorter from Roach took the edge of Gautam Gambhir's bat. Rohit Sharma was back in the pavilion at 38, a tad unlucky after Billy Bowden adjudged him caught behind even though the ball seemed to have come off his forearm. The batsman appealed against the decision, but had to eventually walk.
Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, the captain, tried their best to turn around India's fortunes, but it was just not their day, despite the West Indies bowling three extra overs in no balls and wides. Their team selection was questionable with just two pace bowlers, the fielding was in disarray and the bowling lacked thought, except for Harbhajan Singh. The India off-spinner conceded just 16 runs from his four overs. The others gave away 153 from 16 overs.
The only bright spots for India in the field were the first over by Harbhajan, which cost just two runs, and the last by Ashish Nehra, which produced only six for the home team. Between those two overs, India did not look too different from a wretched Pakistan side. Ravindra Jadeja, going through the worst phase of his career after being banned by the Indian Premier League, continued the miserable form he showed against Australia where he returned figures of two for 38 and was run out for four.
Jadeja had dropped Shane Watson in that game; this time, his buttery fingers benefited Shivnarine Chanderpaul. To compound matters, Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni were then involved in a mix-up following a skier from Gayle. They collided and Gayle made the most of his escape. The West Indies captain was batting on 46 at that time and the next 27 balls produced 52 runs for him. Always a slow starter, Gayle had the ball disappearing to all parts of the park. One of them landed outside, a 112-metre monster shot off Pathan.
The acceleration allowed the West Indies to add 89 runs from their final eight overs and put the match beyond India's reach. "Batting hasn't been up to the expectation," admitted Dhoni in the post-match press conference. "Bowlers have done decently, give or take a few overs here and there. "Batting is supposed to be our strength, and we should chase 170 in these conditions. We are hoping to give our best in the next game."
* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi