India got exactly 100 runs more in the fifth T20 International against England than they did in the first, that too after losing five fewer wickets. At the end of the opener, the batting was the big concern for the hosts but in the series decider, they turned things around dramatically to bat Eoin Morgan and Co out of the contest.
In Ahmedabad on Saturday, Virat Kohli and his men completed a remarkable series victory against the top-ranked T20I side in the world. Down 1-2 in the series, India earned a gritty win in the fourth game before dominating for the most part in the fifth. And they did that despite losing the toss on both occasions.
There were a number of positives and also a few concerns for India in the series. Kohli had said at the start that they would play a new brand of cricket in the shortest format ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year. Whether or not they did that against England is still up for debate, but despite chopping and changing their lineup consistently, India got the desired result.
Here’s a look at some of the big takeaways for India from the T20I series against England:
The biggest positive for India in the batting department was the arrival of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan. The duo excelled for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2020 and have added immense firepower to India’s lineup with their impressive international debuts. Both batsmen got half-centuries in their first innings and made key contributions in the three Indian victories.
While Suryakumar seems set to be given a long rope after playing and doing well in consecutive matches against England, Kishan’s presence in the XI remains a doubt as he missed out due to an injury and did not return to the XI*.
Then there was the form of captain Kohli. He was under pressure having registered two ducks in the preceding Test series and another in the first T20I, but the senior pro turned things around impressively by scoring a total of 231 runs in the next four games and picking up the player of the series award.
However, his position in the batting order remains a talking point.
Kohli promoted himself to the top of the order in the fifth T20I and remained unbeaten to anchor the Indian innings with a 52-ball 80. After the match, he even said that the middle order looks strong to him and he would like to continue as opener along with Rohit Sharma. If that were to happen going forward, KL Rahul will find it difficult to seal a spot in the side.
After registering scores of 1, 0 and 0 in the first three games, Rahul received strong backing from Kohli and Vikram Rathour, with the batting coach even terming him “the best Indian batsman” in the shortest format. But after a 17-ball 14 in the fourth game, Rahul was dropped for the decider and now Kohli is eyeing a permanent spot at the top of the order.
As Rohit said after the series, there is plenty of time before the World Cup and performances in IPL 2021 will undoubtedly have a bearing on India’s lineup as well. But as things stand, with Kohli firing at the top and Suryakumar, Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya being contenders for the middle order, Rahul has a huge challenge on his hands if he wants to earn his spot back in the side.
In the bowling department, the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar was without a doubt the biggest plus for India. The experienced pacer, who spent a considerable amount of time on the sidelines due to injuries, had an economy-rate of just 6.38 across the five matches, which was the best for any bowler among both teams, and bagged the player of the match in the decider for delivering a sensational spell.
It can’t be denied that India’s bowling attack looks so much more potent with a fit and in-form Bhuvneshwar. The 31-year-old was mighty effective against England with the new ball as well as at the death. He got swing both ways and was accurate with his variations to become the go-to bowler for Kohli throughout. With him and Jasprit Bumrah, India could have a devastating pace-bowling duo at the World Cup.
Pandya’s return as a full-time bowler is also a massive advantage for India. The all-rounder delivered 17 overs in the series and was the second-most economical bowler (6.94) among both teams. His spell of 2/16 in the fourth game was exceptional and even in the decider, he showed grit to concede just 16 runs in his last three overs after being taken for 18 in his first. The right-arm medium-pacer used his cutters to great effect and if he continues to remain fit, the balance in the Indian team will be a lot better.
Shardul Thakur was another key contributor for India. His eight wickets in the series were by far the most among India’s bowlers and the right-arm pacer did well to provide breakthroughs operating in crunch situations. However, he too could find it tough to earn a spot once the likes of Bumrah and Mohammed Shami return. The team management, though, will be pleased with Thakur’s performance for now and the 29-year-old would want to strengthen his case with a strong IPL season.
In terms of spinners, India didn’t have a lot to write home about in the T20I series against England. The pitches may have been more conducive for fast bowling but the hosts would’ve expected Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar to have bigger impact. The duo proved to be expensive, with Chahal getting replaced by Rahul Chahar after the first three games. But having said that, India wouldn’t be worried at the moment. Their spinners can gain confidence in the IPL and the pitches in the World Cup post that will most-likely be less pace-friendly.
Corrections and clarifications: Ishan Kishan missed out in the fourth T20I due to a groin injury.