Big-hitting Sharma leads India to series triumph

India's Rohit Sharma plays a rear shot during the third one-day international cricket match against West Indies in St. John's, Antigua. (AP

Rohit Sharma's resolute 86 not out topped Andre Russell's brutal, unbeaten 92 to lead India to a series-clinching, three-wicket victory over West Indies in the third one-day international on Saturday.

Sharma struck five fours and two sixes from 91 balls, and put on a crucial 88 for the seventh wicket with Harbhajan Singh to the put India on course to successfully chase 226 for victory, with 22 balls remaining.

The 24-year-old Sharma smoked a no-ball from Kemar Roach to the long-on boundary to usher the visitors over the line at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, after they too, had run into trouble on 92 for six in the 23rd over.

The result gave the world champions an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.

"Our shot selection was wrong - I too, played a bad shot - but credit must go to Rohit and Harbhajan because they had a good partnership that set things up," said India captain Suresh Raina.

"Rohit has been especially consistent over the last two years. He is batting really well at the moment, and I hope he does well for us in the next two games for us as well too."

Russell smashed eight fours and five sixes from 64 balls in a dazzling display, finishing with the highest innings by a West Indies batsman at the VRCG, and helping the home team reach a respectable 225 for eight from their allocation of 50 overs.

His efforts with the bat, which helped earn him the man-of-the-match award, came after leg-spinner Amit Mishra followed-up on his career-best bowling in the second one-dayer with three for 28 from his 10 overs, and Munaf Patel supported with three for 60 from his 10 overs.

Mishra and Munaf prospered, as the West Indies' frontline batting suffered another crisis of confidence, and the hosts were tottering on 96 for seven in the 30th over.

India, choosing to field, met token resistance from the West Indies top-order before all-rounder Russell, one of three changes to his side's line-up, transformed the complexion of the innings.

India seized firm control of the game, following a second-wicket stand of 65 between Lendl Simmons - with 45 off 68 balls - and Ramnaresh Sarwan - 28 off 38 balls.

Mishra triggered another inexplicible West Indies collapse, after Sarwan was run out in the 15th over, six wickets falling for 31 between the 15th and 30th overs.

India's grip was severely loosened when Russell entered and dominated the next two partnerships - 78 from 96 balls for the eighth wicket with compatriot Carlton Baugh, and 51 - unbroken - from the last 28 balls of the innings for the ninth wicket with Kemar Roach.

India then also found themselves scrambling when four wickets fell for 32 between the 16th and 23rd overs.

But Sharma and Harbhajan Singh, whose 41 occupied 64 deliveries, showed incredible restraint. Harbhajan's patience ran out in the 41st over, when he skied a delivery from Russell, and was caught behind.

India required 46 from the last 54 balls, and through a combination of some big hitting from Praveen Kumar in 25 not out, and wayward West Indies bowling, they coasted the rest of the way.

"This is another one that got away from us," said West Indies captain Darren Sammy.

"The way Russell showed character out there, and gave us the momentum in the game, and put a fighting total on the board.

"During the interval, we were quite confident, and we took that momentum, and we got early wickets, but we did not find the killer instinct to wrap it up."

West Indies have now lost all five ODIs they have played at the VRCG, following its inauguration four years ago ahead of the 2007 World Cup.

The series continues here on Monday.


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