Virat Kohli put on a batting masterclass in the third T20 International against England but unfortunately for India, his knock was sandwiched between two utterly dominant phases for England that powered them to a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
It was a story of powerplays dictating the outcome of the contest as Mark Wood and Jos Buttler bossed the two most important periods of the game. Their performances set the tone in each half of the match and India could never catch up.
As far as the hosts were concerned, Kohli’s unbeaten 77 off 46 was truly memorable. The skipper was having a lean patch by his standards, but he turned things around in the last game and on Tuesday, he took things up a notch with a typically stroke-filled innings as wickets fell around him.
However, Kohli’s effort proved to be far from enough for India as Wood and Buttler delivered the most impactful performances of the match.
Having elected to bowl first, England had India reeling at 24/3 in the sixth over as Wood dismissed openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. From that point on, an Indian victory was always going to be improbable.
And even if Kohli’s fightback raised a sliver of hope, it was imperative to pick early wickets to have a realistic chance. But again, England dominated the powerplay as Buttler went berserk.
Wood makes a mark
Jofra Archer deserved the player of the match award in the first game for his match-winning three-for but Wood, too, was mighty impressive in that game. He had finished with figures of 1/20 and pegged India back with his pace and accuracy early on.
And England missed his presence in the second T20I as they went down by seven wickets. On Tuesday, Wood returned to the XI to once again give his team the start they were looking for.
The 31-year-old joined the attack in the third over and his first delivery was at 149 kmph. The next one was at 150 kmph, and the third one saw Rahul’s stumps getting disturbed. The Indian opener may not be at his best at the moment but there was no doubt that he was rattled by the pace.
Wood then turned up the heat in his next over as well and accounted for the all-important wicket of Rohit. The right-hander attempted to pull the ball, as he loves to, but was beaten for pace and ended up gloving it to Archer at short fine-leg.
Wood had figures of 2/10 from two overs in the powerplay and his effort put England well ahead in the contest. The right-arm pacer made full use of the green tinge on offer and even removed Shreyas Iyer after returning to the attack in the 15th over.
“The two pitches I’ve played on have had a little more bounce, so I’ve enjoyed them,” said Wood after the game. “I’ve been a bit lucky in the fact that I’ve bowled at good times. The captain has used me well and I’ve enjoyed the conditions. I was just trying to bang the ball as hard and fast as I could to make something happen.”
India then needed a strong start with the ball and they would’ve fancied their chances after Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur gave away just seven runs in total in the first two overs. Jason Roy hit consecutive fours in the next over but it was the three-over phase after that which proved to be decisive.
Buttler started his innings watchfully and got to seven off six at the end of the third over. But the next 11 deliveries saw him smash 36 runs. It was a stunning onslaught that put England back in firm control.
The right-hander was particularly severe on Yuzvendra Chahal. He stepped out to the first ball bowled by the leg-spinner and whacked it well over the long-on boundary, before hitting a similar shot for six two balls after Roy was dismissed in that same over.
Buttler then hit Thakur for consecutive fours and a six in the next over, and finally collected two more boundaries in the sixth over of the innings bowled by Chahal. The 30-year-old’s belligerence propelled England to 57/1 at the end of the powerplay. They then needed 100 more runs to win from 84 balls with nine wickets in hand, and India were left with too big a mountain to climb.
“It was nice to spend time in the middle,” said Buttler after receiving the player of the match award. “I always like being not out at the end to get my side over the line. It was a great team performance. Anytime you take early wickets in the powerplay, it really sets you up. It just felt like a good time to attack (early on).”
“People don’t expect me to attack spinners, so I tried to take it on. Chahal is a fantastic bowler and I have had some good battles against him. It was nice to chance my arm a bit today. The first six off Chahal got me up and running and gave me confidence. We managed to put a good powerplay together.”
A lot of the talk after the third T20I was about the importance of the toss and the perks of batting second. England, though, will be confident of sealing the series win as Wood, Archer, Buttler and Roy have all managed to get good performances under their belt in the first three games. Irrespective of the toss, Eoin Morgan’s team has in-form players to seize the initiative from the get-go. And that, as we saw on Tuesday, is a big advantage.