Kingston: In 12 balls Darren Bravo went from being cheap imitation to being a decent impression of Brian Lara, setting up West Indies' win with 34 off 12 after his rather strange go-slow seemed to have countered Ramnaresh Sarwan's 75, leaving them 80 to get for the last eight overs. This was the second time this season that West Indies won two matches after losing the series, but it was also a complete role reversal: usually known to fluff their lines in the end, they pulled this back in the last overs of both innings. Andre Russell and Anthony Martin facilitated the comeback with the ball as West Indies took the last seven wickets for 62, and Bravo's effort transformed the whole seemingly intentless innings.
The Sabina Park crowd danced its way to a din. Sir Viv Richards watched coolly from a box; the discarded Chris Gayle, sporting a new Afro, celebrated in the stands; and the current captain Darren Sammy jumped for joy after what seemed like hours of pensive silence in the players' balcony. Immediately after the winning runs were hit, with an ultimately comfortable eight balls to spare, Samuels ran straight towards Gayle, jumped the fence, and shook his hand.
That West Indies could hit so well in the end was also down to the best pitch of the whole ODI season in the West Indies. It had pace, it had bounce, it tested the batsmen, and it also offered value for shots - a welcome change from the slow and low affairs in Trinidad and Antigua. In the first half of the match, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma passed the test even as their team-mates struggled, and also managed to play the shots that got them runs.
After Kemar Roach and Andre Russell had hustled the Indian openers out, Kohli hardly looked at unease. He saw Manoj Tiwary look a bit uncomfortable, and then try to hit out, at the other end, but he never needed to resort to taking risks. For a man who favours the front foot a touch, Kohli didn't show too many problems transferring the weight back, and more impressively wasn't troubled when the bowlers tried the surprise full ball.
There were edgy moments as was expected on a juicy pitch, but there were quite a few loose ones on offer too. And Kohli waited for them, taking full advantage. Rohit, at the other end, seemed to carry from his good form, ending as the series' highest run-getter. He hit only one four and a six in his half-century, but the two still went at a brisk pace, adding 110 in 20 overs.
Kohli's run-out, a mix of an ill-judged second and a special bit of fielding by Sarwan at fine leg, started the turnaround. Martin was the first to capitalise on that, bowling Rohit out in the first over the Powerplay. Russell then came back and went for broke. He bowled bouncers of different pace, didn't mind the odd wide, and ran through the lower order with three wickets in nine deliveries.
If Russell bowled like there was no tomorrow, the batsmen seemed to be leaving the chase for some other day. Adrian Barath and Bravo were the early culprits even as Sarwan played the best innings since his comeback. Barath benefited from two dropped catches and two run-outs in his 46-ball 17, and Bravo struggled with the same trait of either hitting shots straight to fielders or defending with hard hands. He took 58 balls to cross the strike-rate of 50.
That meant Sarwan had to take risks. He pulled Ishant Sharma from wide outside off, backed away and cut over cover, and had to go big at the first sight of the part-timers. In the 33rd over, with the asking-rate having reached 7.38, he lofted Suresh Raina for a four and a six, and it seemed that finally the real Sarwan was ready to replace the pretender we have been used to over the season.
With that six, though, he started cramping up, and after a struggle for five overs and more than a few raised eyebrows from the umpires, he walked off. Samuels came in, took his time to settle in, and Bravo too hardly seemed to be taking the initiative. Twenty-six came in the first four overs of the partnership, and Bravo then asked for the Powerplay.
Boom. The game changed. As inexplicable as his first 65 off 89 were, there was a ridiculous ease about his hitting in the Powerplay. R Ashwin was the first one to suffer, going for sixes over wide long-on and cow corner. Mishra for the first time in the series was out of his comfort zone, and he dished out a high full toss, which Bravo deposited into the grass on the other side of the boundary. The next ball was a regulation sweep, but it carried over square leg for another six. In the next over, he lofted a Vinay Kumar slower delivery over long-off. All three had respectable figures until then; not only were they rearranged, West Indies now needed just 42 off 33. Mishra came back to have Bravo stumped with a googly, but Samuels and Kieron Pollard showed enough sense, skill and power to turn the rest into a cruise.