England took a 2-1 lead in the five-match T20I series with an eight-wicket win in the third match in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
Chasing has been easier than batting first in Ahmedabad this series, as witnessed in the two T20Is before this, and Eoin Morgan’s decision to put India in was in keeping with the dew factor. His team rocked inside the first six overs, India’s skipper Virat Kohli shored up one end to score a responsible and scintillating 77 off 46 balls, which on a track like the one in Ahmedabad underlined why he remains the best anchor of a limited-overs innings.
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But England found their own anchor in Jos Buttler, who produced his highest score in T20Is (83* from 52) to steer them to victory in the 19th over, while ending the debate about whether he should continue to open. Here are the talking points from Tuesday’s game.
India lose top order inside Powerplay
Having missed the second T20I with a heel injury after helping put England on their way to victory in last Friday’s series opener, Mark Wood rattled India once again during the Powerplay. Bowling at express pace, Wood charged in and hustled the top order with his speed and bounce. KL Rahul’s torrid run was extended when Wood beat him in length and hit the stumps with a ball that nipped back off the seam.
Rohit Sharma, back in the XI after two games, was hurried for pace. Wood saw him trying to back away and followed Rohit with a short ball which the opener miscued behind square where Jofra Archer held the limp shot. In between those wickets, Wood hit the splice of Ishan Kishan’s bat twice in a row to show how valuable sheer pace can be on such tracks.
Wood and Archer tried to unsettle the rookie and it worked, for in the sixth over Kishan swiped at a bouncer from the second change Chris Jordan and skied a top edge for Buttler to settle under. India were 24/3 inside the Powerplay.
Pant gets sold a dummy after brisk start
As he does, Rishabh Pant decided that the best way he could help India recover from that scoreline was to hit his way out of trouble. He didn’t always connect, but the intention was obvious. Ben Stokes was glanced for four, and then Pant went after Adil Rashid. A couple agricultural heaves dribbled into the legside, one meaty swipe beat short fine leg for four and a crash over extra cover also sped to the boundary. Pant was then saved from being lbw with a faint edge when he tried to reverse-sweep Rashid. Jordan was heaved out to midwicket, where Archer fumbled to allow the batsmen to come back for two.
Then, on 23, Pant stood tall to steer Sam Curran’s first ball through backward point and got back for the second run easily. Then Pant saw Kohli call him for a third when Buttler’s flick missed the stumps, but he had over-run too far and lost momentum turning around. Buttler collected the ball and threw it to the bowler’s end where Curran whipped off the bails with a diving Pant well short of his ground. Talk about a wasted wicket. Yes, Kohli sold him the proverbial dummy, but could Pant not have denied the risky third run?
Wood returns, calls Iyer’s bluff
Wood returned to bowl his third over, the 15th of the innings, and added Shreyas Iyer as his third wicket. England’s management might have been aware of how Iyer was troubled by Australia’s pacers last year, with bounce proving his undoing. Wood wasted no time in banging the ball into the batsman, who advanced initially and then hopped back in an attempt to bluff Wood. Wood saw Iyer’s movement and banged it in short, and the result was an uppercut straight to the man stationed inside the boundary at deep point. After three overs, Wood had figures of 3/14.
Sublime Kohli carries India to 156
That wicket left India at 86/5, with 33 deliveries remaining in the innings. Kohli was 27 off 28 balls. Of those last 33 deliveries, Kohli faced 18 balls and from them he scored 50 runs.
Archer was drilled over mid-off for four, then top-edged on the hook for six. Jordan was whipped over long leg for six and slapped between midwicket and mid-on for four to raise Kohli’s fifty from 37 balls. Morgan opted to bowl out Wood, who kept Hardik Pandya hopping and fending but Kohli was sublime as he went across the stumps and pulled six more, eased the next ball over long-off for six and followed that up by slashing four over gully. Wood’s previously excellent figures took a bruising, courtesy Kohli’s excellent placement.
Kohli was left frustrated at getting a single off the penultimate ball of the innings, after he walked right across to a sixth stump and mistimed a big swipe. That single took him to 77 from 46 balls, a fantastic knock given the situation Kohli found himself when he walked out at No 4. Despite dazzling so many times, once again Kohli left viewers stunned by his acceleration and judgement of the track. His strike-rate from his first 15 balls faced was 33; from the next 15, it improved to 30; and from his last 16 deliveries, Kohli struck at 281.25. There is no better batsman in white-ball cricket at the moment.
Buttler bashes England to victory
England scored 16 from their first three overs, and then lost Jason Roy on the reverse-sweep to Yuzvendra Chahal in the fourth. But in that over, Buttler signalled his intent by lofting the legspinner over long-on for two sixes. In the fifth, hit Shardul Thakur for consecutive fours and then hooked six over the fielder stationed on the boundary, despite the shot not coming out of the middle of the bat. A couple fours off Chahal, one reverse-swept powerfully through the covers and the other swatted to deep midwicket, helped England take 57 off the Powerplay block of which Buttler’s contribution was 43 from 17 deliveries.
His 11th T20I fifty came up from 26 balls, and the wicket of a somewhat scratchy Dawid Malan saw Buttler slow down (by his standards) but with plenty of batting behind him, and the asking rate in control, he just tickled and nudged the ball around with Jonny Bairstow. An emphatic reverse-sweep off Chahal and an effortless six off Washington Sundar over the long-on boundary restored Buttler’s boundary-hitting, and it was during this period of aggression that he got a life. Another reverse-sweep off Chahal was dropped by Kohli at point, with Buttler on 76.
That left England needing 30 from 30, and thereon the chase was a formality.