England levelled the three-match T20I series 1-1 after defeating India by five wickets in the second match in Cardiff on Friday.
Batting first, India’s top-order struggled to find its groove leaving India precariously placed early into the innings. Skipper Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni steered them to a respectable total of 148/5 with gritty knocks.
In their chase, England stuttered as India’s pacers gave them a taste of their own medicine. However unlike what happened in Manchester, left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav failed to make an impact. English batsman Alex Hales led his team’s charge with an unbeaten 58.
India did stretch the game into the final over, but they could not close it out as Hales took the hosts across the line.
Here’s a look at the talking points from the enthralling encounter:
Green wicket spells trouble
At the end of the powerplay in the first T20I, India had scored 54 runs for the loss of one wicket. In Cardiff on Friday, that tally was 31/3. India did not get off to a flier. They were put into bat on a wicket that had a cover of grass on it.
With the ball doing just enough, India’s batsmen were caught off guard. Rohit Sharma, who isn’t quite hitting the right notes, was the first one to depart. Dhawan fell soon after, trying to pinch a single. KL Rahul, who had scored a sparkling century in the first game, was bowled as he was deceived by the swing while attempting a big hit down the ground. The top-order was back in the first five overs.
Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni did show some fight in taking the visitors to a respectable total, but they were never able to dominate the bowlers and remained wary of the moving ball deep into the innings.
India’s failure to launch was a reminder that batting in England was never going to be a cakewalk. Adjusting to English conditions has never been an easy task. With India coming into the tour with T20Is against Ireland and then England, fans have had a chance to see the side come to terms with the Old Blighty live on their TV screens.
There haven’t been any other warm-ups, unless one were to consider the Irish T20s as a casual match-up before the team skipped over to the English side.
Prior to Friday, India were fortunate to play on tracks that were bereft of much help to the pacers. With the United Kingdom experiencing a heat wave, conditions so far have been warm and the pitches dry. The initiation for Kohli and Co has been quite hassle-free. It was only in Cardiff on Friday that India were finally given a glimpse of what English conditions can really feel like.
Decoding Kuldeep with Merlyn
After being bamboozled all ends up by the wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav in Manchester, the English batsmen had a lot to prove heading into Cardiff. The utter lack of understanding of Kuldeep’s bowling, though, did not inspire much confidence of an improved English performance.
Having bagged five wickets in his first game on English soil, expectations of an encore too were high from the young bowler. Despite the fact that India were restricted to 148/5 in their batting effort, there was still hope that the English batsmen could end up struggling against his wrist-spin.
However, the story didn’t quite play out according to this script. Kuldeep ended up without a single wicket. He had a few close shouts, but England did well to combat his turn this time around.
“They played Kuldeep really well today, and that was the difference in the middle overs this time. They did their homework,” Kohli admitted after the game.
England had indeed done their homework right. The English batsmen had practiced with spin-bowling machine “Merlyn” in the lead-up to the match.
According to reports, the England batsmen had last used this machine ahead of the 2005 Ashes to get the players ready for facing Shane Warne.
The preparation seemed to have done the trick as the batsmen successfully blunted Kuldeep’s threat through the innings. Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow, in fact, went after the bowler, a ploy that returned rich dividends for the hosts.
After the first game there was a fear that the Englishmen would struggle through the tour against Kuldeep. Some experts and fans alike were quick in their hot takes, going as far as suggesting that the chinaman bowler deserved a Test call-up.
England, though, sent down a timely reminder that they were more than capable of deciphering the bowler’s bag of tricks. Unlike the previous game they made optimal use of the sweep shot and did not go for the shot as a Hail Mary.
Missing Bumrah in the death
Young Jasprit Bumrah has made a penchant for himself as an effective death-overs bowler. His exploits in the Indian Premier League have seen him chart a meteoric rise in the past year. He is now a regular feature for India in all three formats.
In England, he was supposed the spearhead the visitors’ pace attack. With his variations and accurate yorkers he is a menace in the death overs. However, a thumb injury ahead of the first T20I ruled him out the entire limited overs leg.
India missed his services the most on Friday. Tasked with defending a modest total, the bowlers came agonizingly close to pulling off a thrilling win, but it was right in the end that all the effort came to naught as England scored the winning runs in the final over.
With Bumrah missing in action, Kohli had to use Kuldeep as late as the 17th over, despite the spinner’s below-par showing in his first three overs. It was in this over that the game tilted favourably towards England. Bairstow smashed two consecutive sixes to hand his side the upper hand heading into the final three overs.
With 23 runs needed of 18 balls, England seemed the likely winners. Some deft bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav kept India in the hunt until the last over, but the English batsmen kept chipping away, securing their wickets staying afloat till the very end. They finally launched their assault in the final over with a six and a boundary, all but sealing a win for the home side.
India came close to pulling off an improbable win but will rue not having all their ducks in a row. May be all that was missing towards the end were a few yorkers, the ones that only Bumrah can pull off.