Both teams had already qualified for the Super Eight stage of the tournament and this result made no difference to the opposition they will face in those games. But, by inflicting such a resounding defeat on the reigning champions and No. 1-rated T20I side, India underlined the impression they have the personnel to challenge anyone in this competition.
India, despite resting three members of their first choice side, won by 90 runs with England’s enduring fallibility against spin bowling exposed in brutal fashion once again. Bear in mind that these two teams face each other in a four-Test series in India in the coming months and alarm bells will surely be ringing at Lord’s.
England’s first error was to misread the pitch. While India included two specialist spinners, England dropped Samit Patel to make way for the extra seam option of Tim Bresnan. Their ploy of testing the India batsmen with short deliveries was met with a series of cut and pulls that suggested either that England’s bowlers – Steven Finn apart – lack the pace for such a ploy, or that, in these conditions anyway, the reputation of Indian batsmen as flat-track bullies has been greatly exaggerated. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two conclusions.
But the defining feature of this match was England’s inability to combat spin bowling. India’s two frontline spinners claimed six wickets for 25 runs in eight overs as England collapsed from 39 for 2 to 60 for 9. At that stage, England were in danger of being dismissed for the lowest T20I score – beating the 67 by Kenya against Ireland – before a last-wicket stand of 20 prevented that one indignity. Still, England’s final total of 80 was their lowest in T20Is, surpassing the 88 they managed against West Indies at The Oval in 2011. The margin of defeat is also the largest, in terms of runs, England have suffered in T20Is and the largest victory inflicted by India.
England were struggling even before the introduction of spin. Set 171 to win, a total some way above par on a pitch that was just a little slower than anticipated and did not allow England any time to settle in, they lost Alex Hales in the first over, bowled by inswing as he attempted to heave one over the leg side, before Luke Wright fell in the third over, attempting to pull a delivery too full for the stroke.
It was MS Dhoni’s decision to introduce the spin of Harbhajan Singh in the Powerplay that precipitated England’s decline. Harbhajan, playing his first international game for more than a year, produced a wicket maiden to start – Eoin Morgan was bowled by a quicker arm-ball as he made room to cut – before Bresnan top-edged a sweep, Jos Buttler gave himself room but missed and Graeme Swann skipped down the wicket and missed a doosra. Harbhajan finished with 4 for 12, the best figures by an Indian bowler in T20Is.
Earlier Rohit Sharma helped India plunder 51 from the final four overs of the innings after it appeared they had squandered a decent start. Sharma, who has endured some miserable form in recent times, produced a powerful innings of 55 in 33 balls to lead India to 170 for 4 in their 20 overs.Piyush Chawla also enjoyed England’s clueless batting. Jonny Bairstow, reading the googly as if it were in Greek, missed a slog-sweep, while Craig Kieswetter, his foot nowhere near the pitch of the ball, was undone by a legbreak and edged to slip. It was, by any standards, a dreadful performance with the bat.
While a partnership of 57 in 7.5 overs between Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir had built India a strong platform of 80 for 1 after 10 overs, a tight spell of bowling from Swann arrested their progress. Kohli, in particular, looked in sparkling form. He got off the mark with consecutive boundaries through the covers: the first a gorgeous, front-foot drive off Finn; the second a punch off the back foot off Stuart Broad. Bresnan’s attempts to intimidate him with the short ball were met by an upper cut and then a pull for boundaries.
Gambhir lost little by comparison. He took successive boundaries off Jade Dernbach in the second over of the innings, first pulling a long-hop through midwicket before guiding a wider ball to point, while throwing his hands whenever offered any width and crashing boundaries through point off Finn and Broad.
Kohli gave one desperately difficult chance. On 25 he came down the wicket and, with that characteristic flick of the wrist, cracked Broad over midwicket where a leaping Swann could only get his fingertips on the ball as it raced to the boundary.
Swann was the one man to apply some control for England. Coming on after the six Powerplay overs had realised 52 runs for the loss of one wicket, his four overs conceded just 17 runs and produced the key wicket of Kohli who, beaten in the flight, lofted his attempted on-drive to deep midwicket.
It might have been better for Swann. Had wicketkeeper Kieswetter been able to gather cleanly, Gambhir might have been stumped on 26 with the score on 80 for 1. The batsman, deceived in the flight, was drawn down the wicket and stranded when Swann beat him but Kieswetter could only deflect the ball and allowed India to steal a bye.
Still, Swann’s spell and the wicket of Kohli slowed India’s run rate. From the halfway stage of the innings they were able to add only 39 from the next six overs as Broad shuffled his bowlers – England’s captain bowled his four overs in four separate spells – to good effect.
The final four overs of the India innings brought 51 runs, however. First Rohit Sharma gave himself some room and dabbed a short ball from Broad over the vacant first slip area to the boundary before, next delivery, he took advantage of the short fine leg to pull another short delivery behind square to the boundary. In all the over cost 13.
It signalled the acceleration from India. Dhoni punished a full toss from Dernbach through the covers, before Sharma hit two more full tosses – one from Bresnan the other from Dernbach – for four and six to third man and point respectively. Sharma brought up his 50 – from just 31 balls – with a sweep off another full toss from Dernbach.
While Dhoni was brilliantly caught in the final over – Buttler, on the boundary, took the catch but, feeling himself falling over the boundary, threw the ball to Hales who completed the dismissal – the damage had been done. England’s bowlers, who contributed eight wides and a plethora of full tosses and short balls, might not attract the criticism of their batting colleagues, but they were little more impressive