50 overs India 308 for 7 (Dhawan 97, Gill 64, Iyer 54, Motie 2-54, Joseph 2-61) vs West Indies
Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales gave away as many as six boundaries in the first six overs, even though they bowled a combined 24 dot balls. At the end of the first powerplay of ten overs, India had raced to 73 without loss, with Dhawan and Gill hitting 11 fours and two sixes while also facing 38 dots.
Gill – chosen ahead of Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad – looked particularly fluent in his strokeplay, driving and flicking at will. He got off the mark with a pristinely-timed cover drive off Seales before executing a perfect back-foot punch in the next over off Joseph. He cashed in on any width provided by the seamers and welcomed left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie with beautifully timed six over mid-on, and got to his maiden ODI fifty off just 36 balls.
Dhawan, who had returns of 31*, 9 and 1 in the recent ODI series against England, was happy to leave deliveries outside off to get his eye in before freeing his arms to collect boundaries and make up for the dots. Though he played second fiddle to Gill, Dhawan ensured the good start didn’t go to waste, bringing up his 36th fifty in the format.
Just when it looked like West Indies would struggle to get a breakthrough, Gill threw away a chance to get to triple figures. He tucked a Joseph delivery towards midwicket and set off on a jog, only to be run out by a direct hit from an alert Pooran at square leg.
Iyer took his time to get going, with Motie mixing up his pace to go with Joseph’s short-ball attack from the other end. The five overs after Gill’s wicket brought just 17 runs, that phase ending with Iyer on 3 off 15 balls. Sensing a chance to apply the squeeze, Pooran brought Akeal Hosein on and bowled him in tandem with Motie. Both spinners managed to find enough from the surface to keep even a set Dhawan quiet.
But the Indian captain broke the shackles by first slog sweeping Motie for a six over deep square leg and hitting Pooran’s part-time offspin for a maximum over long-on an over later. Iyer then tore into Pooran, hitting a four and a six off successive deliveries, before Dhawan deposited Motie over midwicket again.
However, an acrobatic catch by Shamarh Brooks at backward point ended Dhawan’s innings on 97 off the very next ball. An over later, Iyer fell after his fifty – thanks to a full-stretch leap from Pooran at cover – and the brakes began to be applied on India’s innings.
With Suryakumar Yadav chopping Hosein on to his stumps, and Sanju Samon and Deepak Hooda struggling to get the ball away, India were in danger of being restricted to under 300. But Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur managed to find the boundary towards the end of the innings – 36 came from the last three overs – to help India get past 300.
Speaking to the host broadcaster during the break, Gill suggested that spinners could be key for India, with the pitch having started to grip in the second half of their innings. West Indies, who have been bowled out in all but five of their ODI innings this year, will have their task cut out.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo