West Indies made a fist of it but the lack of runs courtesy another batting implosion proved their downfall, as they slipped to a five-wicket defeat to India in the opening Twenty20 International Sunday.
Defending an inadequate 109 at Eden Gardens, West Indies were in the contest after reducing the hosts to 45 for four in the eighth over, as debutant fast bowler Oshane Thomas produced a fiery spell to unsettle the top order.
But India steadied themselves through a fifth-wicket partnership between Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey, to get over the line with 13 balls remaining and extend West Indies’ misery on tour.
Karthik top-scored with an unbeaten 31 off 34 deliveries while debutant Krunal Pandya chipped in with 21 not out off nine balls, delivering India’s 12th victory in their last 15 T20 Internationals for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
The 21-year-old Thomas, who made his international debut in the just concluded one-day series, shone brightly with two for 21 from four overs which included 17 dot balls, while skipper Carlos Brathwaite was outstanding with two for 11 from his four overs.
West Indies had earlier fallen apart spectacularly to finish on 109 for eight off their 20 overs – their lowest-ever total against the Indians and their eighth lowest overall.
All-rounder Fabian Allen, on debut, top-scored with 27 from 20 deliveries but he was the only one to pass 20.
Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav continued his excellent run on the tour, claiming three for 13 from his four overs, as West Indies lost wickets from the outset and never recovered.
The rot set in from early when Denesh Ramdin wafted at a wide ball from seamer Umesh Yadav and feathered a catch through to Dinesh Karthik for two with 10 runs on the board in the third over.
Tragedy followed in the very next over when Shai Hope (14) called Shimron Hetmyer (10) for a sharp single but then hesitated, and comically ended up at the non-striker’s end with his partner, in a devastating run out.
The left-handed Hetmyer learnt little from the experience and skied a pull at a short ball in the next over from pacer Jasprit Bumrah, for wicketkeeper Karthik snare the catch running around to short square leg.
Veteran Kieron Pollard’s return to international cricket for the first time in 15 months was met with disappointment, labouring 26 balls over his 14 before failing to clear long on in the 10th over from left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya.
And Darren Bravo’s first appearance for West Indies in two years was also an unflattering one, the left-hander scoring just five before tugging Kuldeep to Shikhar Dhawan at long on in the 11th over.
When Rovman Powell (4) and Brathwaite (4) perished at the hands of Kuldeep seven runs and 15 balls apart, the Windies were rocking at 63 for seven in the 15th over and in danger of falling for under the 100-run mark.
But Allen arrived to lash four fours, adding 24 for the eighth wicket with Keemo Paul (15 not out), as West Indies passed triple figures thanks to the best stand of the innings.
Thomas then gave West Indies a sensational start when he removed openers Rohit Sharma (6) and Dhawan (3) cheaply to leave India on 16 for two in the third over.
First, the right-arm Thomas got one to bounce and jag back and clip the Rohit’s inside edge, for Ramdin to take a smart catch above his head going to his left at the end of the first over.
In his next over, Thomas completely up-ended Dhawan with a quick one that straightened and removed middle stump, beating the left-hander’s uncertain prod for pace.
Brathwaite piled on the pressure in a stingy spell, forcing an impetuous Rishabh Pant (1) to sky to Bravo at cover point in the sixth over and then getting KL Rahul (16) to pull a short one into Bravo’s lap at deep square leg in the eighth over.
Karthik, who belted three fours and a six, repaired the innings alongside Pandey who made 19 off 24 balls before pushing one that stopped in the pitch back to debutant left-arm spinner Khary Pierre at the end of the 15th.
However, India required only a further 27 runs from 30 balls at that stage and Pandya upped the tempo with three fours in a breezy knock to see his side home.