A near-unstoppable force combined with an almost-immovable object at Chepauk as West Indies overhauled India's 287, ruthlessly exposing a depleted attack. Shimron Hetmyer was that unstoppable force, smashing a 106-ball 139, while Shai Hope held on limpet-like, making an unbeaten 102 off 151 balls.
Their 218-run stand had West Indies marry power with smarts, something that had cost them in the 50-over World Cup earlier this year.
When Hetmyer joined Hope, the wicketkeeper-opener was on 2 off 17 balls. He wasn't struggling, though. Hope looked unhurried and he always prefers batting in his own bubble. Hetmyer knows that, and he went on a boundary-hitting spree at the other end to ensure the asking rate was within West Indies' grasp.
Hetmyer set to work by slashing Mohammed Shami over slip in the sixth over and, three balls later, he top-edged a hook over the keeper's head for four. It didn't always look pretty, but it did ease the burden on Hope. Hetmyer's job was to keep taking risks and Hope's was to take the chase deep.
Hetmyer then lined up left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and slog-swept him against the turn over the midwicket boundary. By the time he raised a run-a-ball fifty, Hope was on 33 off 68 balls.
Having put the full balls away, Hetmyer forced India's bowlers into bowling short at him. He jumped back in the crease and swatted left-arm fingerspinner Ravindra Jadeja for back-to-back sixes over the wide long-on boundary. Hetmyer usually likes swinging the ball in the arc between midwicket and square leg, even in the CPL, but on Sunday night, he adjusted to the sluggish pitch and hoarded 76 of his 139 runs in the "V".
"We've played with each other for quite a while now. I know his game and he knows mine. Most of the time, I'm the aggressor and he's the person who sticks around." Hetmyer on his partnership with Hope
Seam-bowling allrounder Shivam Dube then bowled cutters into the middle of the deck, but Hetmyer still read those variations and meted out a similar treatment to him. Hetmyer needed just 35 balls to move from fifty to hundred - his fifth in 41 ODIs.
Hope, meanwhile, had just passed fifty and was striking at 55 or thereabouts. Once Hetmyer reached the landmark, he went into an even higher gear and launched Jadeja onto the roof of the old Anna pavilion.
Shami's third spell with the old ball was India's last roll of the dice, but Hetmyer threw him off his lengths. When Shami bowled a slower bouncer, Hetmyer got on top of it and muscled it over midwicket for six. Then, when Shami went too full and outside off, Hetmyer leaned back and imperiously laced it between extra cover and long-off.
Three balls later, Hetmyer had holed out, but by then West Indies needed only 59 off 68 balls. Hope then found his next gear and secured the chase in fuss-free fashion.
"We just keep it simple because we've played with each other for quite a while now," Hetmyer said of his partnership with Hope at the post-match press conference. "So, I know his game and he knows mine. So, basically when we're batting together, most of the time, I'm the aggressor and he's the person who sticks around and bats around.
"And if he gets the boundary ball, he puts it away. For [me], it's always nice batting with someone like him because he's going to make sure you get the strike as much as possible and it's easier to execute."
Hetmyer's 133 is the fifth-highest score in a chase against India in India. Hetmyer had impressed on the previous trip to India last year too, but this looked to be a coming-of-age innings.
In the T20I decider in Mumbai, Hetmyer was dismissed, off a full toss, while going for a third straight six. At that point, Kieron Pollard was also going big for West Indies, but Hetmyer ended up tossing his wicket away. In Chennai, he assessed the situation, the track and his partner better, guiding West Indies to the doorstep of victory.
Hetmyer is already known as a batting leader in West Indian cricket circles. In CPL 2019, he had been appointed director of batting of a Guyana Amazon Warriors line-up that included the likes of Shoaib Malik and Nicholas Pooran.
"I came to know this is my highest score in international cricket, so this would be the best one," Hetmyer said of his innings in the ODI series opener against India. "It's always nice chasing a score than a setting one. Chasing a score and taking the team home is a much, much better feeling. Sad that I didn't finish the game, but it's a work in progress for me."
As for Hope, he chalked up his second successive unbeaten century, having also played a crucial hand in the third ODI against Afghanistan in Lucknow last month.
Before the trip to India - for series against Afghanistan and India - West Indies had last won an ODI series in 2014. After having swept Afghanistan 3-0, Pollard's men are now eyeing another ODI series victory.