India cruised to victory in the fifth and deciding T20 match, handing England a 36-run thrashing, and a rare series defeat.
For 20 glorious overs, and on an excellent pitch, India were able to bat much as they liked – with Virat Kohli the flagstaff about which the others billowed extravagantly. England, set an intimidating 225, started like a train thanks to Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan but, two thirds of the way through, hit buffers named Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur.
The 3-2 series defeat leaves England’s World Cup masterplan under something of a haze – a batting order that needs a shuffle, an out of position Ben Stokes, an untested Moeen Ali – but, if nothing else, Eoin Morgan now knows how difficult it will be to beat belligerent-mode India in the autumn.
“This series was extremely productive,” he said. “I think to play against a strong Indian team in their own conditions was fantastic. India are running hot at the moment. Our middle order didn’t fire throughout the series but again, a victim of that, our top order have done really well and contributed massively to the two wins.”
England were up against it from the second over, despite having won the toss, when Kohli screamed an extra-cover drive past a diving Morgan and Rohit Sharma, in annihilating lazy-days mode, matched him a few balls later. Sharma survived an lbw review against Adil Rashid – sliding down leg, a rare Morgan misjudgement. And as England watched the replay, Kohli and Rohit mirrored each other, chewing the fat, hands on hips. The ease was real – Rohit then smashed Rashid for six – and he was just getting started.
Mark Wood, bowling at close to 150kph, was driven twice back down the ground, his big brown eyes brimming with the unfairness of it all. In his next over, India went one better, Kohli swivel-pulling, high left knee, quick hands, for six over long leg; Rohit, dripping with grace, pulling another with the nonchalance of a man tossing a peeled grape over his shoulder. The brains trust of Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer, Wood and Morgan looked on, without answer. On Rohit went, top-edging Sam Curran just away from a diving Wood, flicking him for six to go to fifty off 30 balls. It was Ben Stokes who finally induced an inside edge onto his stumps.
But Rohit’s departure for 64 (off 34 balls) brought only Suryakumar Yadav, who shuffle-stepped down to Rashid and lofted his second ball straight for six, a leg-break disappeared up and over extra-cover for another. Then Yadav drilled Jordan for three successive fours.
But it was a spark of magic from Jordan that brought the wicket. Yadav top edged and Jordan, sprinting round the boundary from long on, stuck out his right hand, plucked the ball from gravity’s apron, and, with the momentum carrying him over the rope, had the speed of thought to throw it to Jason Roy. Roy laughed in disbelief at the sheer gall of it all. Extraordinary, but no game changer.
Kohli continued to skip along, to piped shouts of adoration from an imaginary crowd, finishing with a not-so-sloppy 80 off 52 balls, Hardik Pandya bustled a cameo of his own.
The reply faltered immediately as Jason Roy charged down the pitch to Kumar, missed, and was bowled, leaving England 0-1 after two balls. But what looked like no chance, moved rapidly to possibility, as Malan laid into Pandya, scything four, six and four. Buttler joined in, straight driving Washington Sundar, then clapping Thakur’s first ball for six over midwicket. Tink and tonk they continued, until, in the 13th over, with the partnership 130, Kohli turned to Kumar.
He immediately slowed the scoring and induced Buttler to mistime a cut to the boundary edge. Just six singles came from the 14th , leaving England to score 89 off six. In the tension, Jonny Bairstow carved Thakur into the hands of Suryakumar, Malan had a slog off Thakur’s knuckle ball, Morgan followed three balls later and that was that.