• Matthew Whiley

Match Report: India v England (14/03/21)

India 166-3 (17.5 overs) defeated England 164-6 (20 overs) by 7 wickets

India captain Virat Kohli led from the front with a masterful 73 off 49 balls as his side cruised to victory over England in the second T20I in Ahmedabad.

Kohli was ably backed up by a confident 56 off 32 from debutant Ishan Kishan and 26 off 13 from Rishabh Pant as the hosts eased to their target and levelled the five-match series at 1-1.

Earlier, several English batsmen had struggled to build on reasonable starting platforms, as a combination of wasteful shots and tight Indian bowling meant Jason Roy was the only member of the touring party to pass 30.

Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur were the pick of the Indian bowlers, each claiming identical figures of 2-29, while Sam Curran’s economical 1-22 was one bright spot on an otherwise bleak evening for England.

Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, England suffered a nightmare start when Jos Buttler was trapped lbw by Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a first-ball duck, before Roy and Dawid Malan were able to steady the ship.

Roy skied Sundar to Kumar to depart four short of his fifty, and although it appeared as though Eoin Morgan (28) and Jonny Bairstow (20) would boost the scoring, their initial charge was slowed before both were caught.

Ben Stokes’ 24 added some valuable late runs, but it was a laboured performance from England, with their total ultimately deemed to be barely scraping par.

India were given an almighty scare when Sam Curran sent down a wicket maiden to KL Rahul to open the chase, with the Surrey bowler finding Rahul’s outside edge from the final ball to leave India 0-1.

However, Rahul’s fellow opener Kishan was then joined at the crease by his captain, and together they made a mockery of England’s sticky innings, cleanly flaying the ball to all parts as they soared to 94-1.

Kishan fell at the halfway point, pinned in front by Adil Rashid, but Pant’s typically swashbuckling innings meant the loss barely affected India as they continued to steamroll towards their now modest-looking target.

Chris Jordan removed Pant with 35 required, but that was a mere inconvenience for Kohli, as he efficiently took charge, bar a minor moment of controversy with a stumping, before sealing victory with a towering six.

Sloppy England pay the price

England are currently sat atop the ICC’s T20I team rankings, and in Dawid Malan, they boast comfortably the world’s best T20 batsman, but as they so clearly demonstrated today, even the very best have an off day.

Ben Stokes’ relatively simple drop of Ishan Kishan at mid on was symptomatic of a turgid performance from the tourists, who failed to back up an impressive showing in the first game of the series.

Where they were sharp and quick-thinking on Friday, they were slow and sluggish today, and India were able to take full advantage.

With the bat, all of Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, and Jason Roy failed to score quickly enough as the slow nature of the Ahmedabad surface was exposed.

With the ball, Stokes, Chris Jordan, and Tom Curran were too often wayward, with all three seeing their figures taking some heavy punishment as Kishan and Virat Kohli cashed in.

It is not often that England turn in this sort of mediocre performance in a white-ball game of late, and they will be looking for an immediate response when the two sides lock horns again in the third match of the series on Tuesday.

Kohli’s brilliance – and a touch of luck – wins the day

Beloved by billions of his compatriots, India skipper Virat Kohli is among the very best in world cricket, but after falling for a fifth-ball duck in the first game of this series, he had a point to prove today.

Kohli is dangerous at the best of times, but when he is in the mindset he was in today, he is virtually unstoppable, and he wiped away all trace of his uncharacteristic failure on Friday with his efforts today.

He predominantly targeted the area behind square on the leg side, but very few areas escaped his wrath as from the first ball to the last, he calmly seized the initiative and ultimately led his side to victory.

The Indian captain was afforded a slice of luck in the 16th over, when on 54, he was adjudged not out by the third umpire on an exceptionally marginal stumping call off Adil Rashid.

The cameras did not appear to show anything substantial behind the line when Jos Buttler whipped the bails off, but the call was so immeasurably tight that one set of eyes may have perceived it differently to another.

There may be those who say the importance of losing your best batsman cannot be understated, and who talk up the possibility that any removal of Kohli may have sparked a collapse.

However, given that that would have been only India’s fourth wicket, and they required just 21 for victory at that point, even the most dedicated of English fans would have struggled to make the case that it would have changed the outcome of the game.

Slow over rates remain an issue

Unlike England’s domestic T20 Blast, which requires the 20th over of an innings be started no longer than 75 minutes after the first ball is delivered, the Indian Premier League does not mandate a time limit on innings.

That was evident in the Indian team’s at-times laughably slow over rate, with the hosts having sent down just over ten overs an hour into the match.

It is hard to criticise India given that they did nothing wrong - there is no rule dictating how fast they must bowl their overs, and their players have grown up on a steady diet of taking their time, even in Twenty20.

However, everything about T20 cricket is designed to be fast-paced, and it must be said that ten overs per hour, when you would expect to see at least 12 per hour in England, is simply too slow.

Player ratings

India: Kishan 8, Rahul 5, Kohli (c) 9, Pant (wk) 8, Iyer 7, Yadav 6, Pandya 6, Sundar 8, Thakur 8, Kumar 7, Chahal 7.

England: Roy 7, Buttler (wk) 4, Malan 6, Bairstow 6, Morgan (c) 6, Stokes 5, S Curran 7, T Curran 5, Archer 6, Jordan 5, Rashid 7.