AFP
KL Rahul was at his absolute best AFP

India registered 144 for 8 against England, thanks to KL Rahul‘s resounding 71 off 47. In the second of the three-T20I series at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association, the English bowlers had put the visitors in a spot of bother, reducing them to 69 for 3 after 10.3 overs. However, it was Rahul’s magnificent strokeplay that kept India in hunt amidst Moeen Ali‘s figures of 4-0-20-1. Another Englishman who rattled the might of Indian batting was Chris Jordon, who scalped two crucial wickets of his RCB teammates Virat Kohli and Rahul. To make matters worse for India, he conceded only 5 runs in the last over, also knocking over MS Dhoni.

The last time India played a T20I at Nagpur, the New Zealand spinners obliterated them to 79 all-out. That debacle, in all probability, is still fresh in their minds. “Seeing the last game against New Zealand, it became a lot difficult to chase, and the wicket became slow and it was turning a lot. The pitch will deteriorate as the game progresses,” Virat Kohli said after Eoin Morgan invited India to bat first.

“Lot of determination out there, and winning in India is difficult. We aren’t taking our last two wins for granted,” Morgan said being mindful of India’s strength in their own den.

With a spring in his walk, Kohli took the crease and faced the first ball of the innings, with KL Rahul at the other end. England, taking a leaf out of former New Zealand great Martin Crowe’s book, starting the proceedings with a spinner.

Liam Dawson, replacing pacer Liam Plunkett, conceded 5 off the first over, leaving the devastating pair of Kohli and Rahul at bay. From the other end came Tymal Mills. He further rocked Kohli with a nasty bouncer. But given the size of the modern-day bats, the ball flew over the wicketkeeper for a boundary.

Chris Jordan then joined the spectacle and trapped Kohli in front off his very first over. The crying appeal amidst the roaring crowd went in vain, as umpire declared not out. Jordan, though, looked down in disdain, for he knew it was plumb.

However, Kohli is not the one to bog down. He slapped a six over long-off, followed by a wristy flick past fine-leg. King Kohli was in command but only for a brief moment, for Jordan avenged the turned-down decision by outfoxing Kohli with change of pace a strategy they had greatly implemented in the Kanpur T20I.

England then pushed India to further trouble. Adil Rashid, who did not bowl an over in the series opener, dismissed Suresh Raina for 7.

The track had already spit its venom. The ball was not coming on to the bat. There was turn for the spinners. To add more spite to it, England spinners succeeded in catching the famed Indian batting line-up in web. And Moeen Ali, yet again, won the battle against Yuvraj Singh, as he trapped the southpaw with a delivery that slightly held its line.

Meanwhile, Rahul had put on his dancing shoes, and was dealing in sixes, despite losing wickets at the other end. But that’s the nature of this format. There is very little time to make amends. And Rahul exactly did precisely that, reaching to his second 50-run mark.

Amidst all this, what surprised everyone was the promotion of Manish Pandey ahead of MS Dhoni. Many a question surfaced, and one of them was: are India back to having Dhoni as the finisher? That did not matter in the moment, for India need more runs.

Rahul continued his run riot, taking on Rashid for a couple of fours. Pandey, on the other hand, dealt in singles, giving the most of the strike to the in-form Rahul. Pandey knew the need of the hour and let Rahul take the centre stage.

All the same, Jordon took pace off the pace and provided yet another breakthrough, this time getting the better of Rahul for 71.

In came Dhoni, at No. 6, to blaze the final fireworks. However, he was dismissed off the last ball of the innings, adding only 5 off 7.

Brief scores:

India 144 for 8 (Virat Kohli 21, KL Rahul 71; Chris Jordan 2 for 22, Moeen Ali 1 for 20) vs England.