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Avesh slows it down to stay in India's fast lane

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WATCH - Avesh Khan gets Brandon King with a slower one (0:40)

The opener walks back for an eight-ball 13 (0:40)

Avesh Khan had leaked 54 runs in six overs on ODI debut in Port-of-Spain last month. He continued to bleed runs in the two T20Is in St Kitts. He struggled to come to grips with the strong wind and short boundaries there and ended up conceding 78 in 5.2 overs.

Curiously enough, in the second T20I, Rohit Sharma had tasked Avesh with defending nine off the final over, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar still had two in the bag.

Avesh has the reputation of being a yorker specialist at the IPL, but he cracked under pressure here. His first delivery of that final over was a front-foot no-ball and the following free-hit was scythed over extra-cover for six by Devon Thomas. The next ball was slapped for four. Game over for Avesh and India.

Avesh had kept offering up pace and often allowed the batters to hit with the wind in St Kitts. The venue at Lauderhill in Florida isn't too different, with the wind and smaller boundaries having a major influence on the proceedings. Avesh, however, redeemed himself admirably by opening up the game for India in their defence of 191.

For a bowler, T20 cricket is about denial. Denying the batters pace. Denying them the access to the shorter boundaries. Denying them swinging room. Denying them the chance to hit with the wind. Avesh understood all of this in the early exchanges.

After seeing Brandon King take a liking to Bhuvneshwar's pace, and then his own pace, Avesh bowled a legcutter into the pitch and had King spooning a straightforward return catch. West Indies' response was to promote Thomas to No.3 in a pinch-hitting role, something that Denesh Ramdin used to do back in the day.

In his second over, Avesh took a legcutter away from Thomas' reach even as he shuffled across his stumps, and had him carving a catch to mid-off. Avesh also kept Kyle Mayers and Shimron Hetmyer quiet with a mixture of well-executed slower balls. West Indies have a bowler who specialises in that too. Except he went for 66 in his four overs. Avesh returned 2 for 17 in his four.

"I feel really good because [in the] last two games I didn't do well," he said after bagging the Player-of-the-Match award. "But, in this one, I just focused on my strengths, so I just bowled hard lengths into this wicket and used the wind.

"In this wicket, the ball is stopping a bit. So, I'm just mixing my slower ones with the hard lengths and using the odd bouncer. So, that gave me success on this wicket."

Avesh might not have played had Harshal Patel been fit, but, as it turned out, he seized his opportunity and repaid the faith of the team management.

"I just talked to my coaches and captain, so they said that: 'we are backing you, so you just perform there and give your 100% every time. As a bowler, you gave runs in the two matches, but you have to bounce back. This is how you make a player'. So, they are all backing me and today I just gave the result. There is still one match to go and I'm focusing on that."

Rohit, too, was enthused by Avesh's comeback and said that he had always believed in the fast bowler's abilities. "We do understand his talent and anyone can have one or two bad days. We do understand his quality and we need to keep that in mind. When we talk about certain things, you actually want to go out there and do it as well, which is to give players enough game time in the middle and he is fantastic. He used the conditions really well; he used his variations and height really well. So, that was very pleasing to see."

There is no clarity over Harshal's availability for the Asia Cup, but Arshdeep Singh has been an exciting addition to India's attack and a fit-again Deepak Chahar will return to action in the ODIs in Zimbabwe. The competition for the T20 World Cup spots hots up even further and Sunday could well bring another chance for Avesh to keep himself in India's white-ball plans.