07

It took England 2 months and 12 days to taste victory this Indian winter. It took England 5 Tests and 2 ODIs to design a roadmap to success on this taxing tour. We have waited a long time to get a win here. The Test series didn t go very well. We forgot how winning felt to be honest, all-rounder Ben Stokes had said after exhibiting a Man-of-the-Match winning performance in the Kolkata ODI. However, unlike the Test series, England played out of their skin when they fashioned a blue jersey in the 50-over battles. And when they don red-hot clothing, they look even more unvanquishable.

The victory at the city of joy revived England’s hopes. They further salvaged the debacle by ending up on the winning side in the T20I series opener at Kanpur, and quashed all the talks about the home team being the clear favourites. In hindsight, they will look to continue the momentum at the Tiger Capital of India Nagpur. All the same, against a spirited team such as India and that too in its own den, England’s road to seal the series will be barricaded by a spited Virat Kohli, who after a trouncing engenders more venom.

Kohli scored 26 off 29, comprising of four aerial boundaries. It, in all honesty, was unlike any another Kohli innings. There was more power involved than precision. And that was India’s approach throughout the match. None of the batsmen could steer strokes into the gaps, and the bowling unit, barring Yuzvendra Chahal, did not display character when the England batsmen came with an intent to dent India’s confidence.

Ashish Nehra, in his yet another comeback, leaked runs at 10.33. Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya went wicketless. Newcomer Parvez Rasool got the better of Eoin Morgan but only after the England captain had blasted 51, taking his team closer to the doorstep of victory. Amidst all this, Chahal knocked over England openers with his leg-spin.

“You have got six balls while the batsman has just one ball. You have to plan accordingly, because T20 is such a quick format where you have to be on your toes always as you don t what will happen next,” said Chahal said ahead of the second encounter.

Chahal has dished out a similar plan that Moeen Ali had perfectly executed in the first T20I, eventually receiving the Man-of-the-Match award. With figures of 4-0-21-2, Moeen not only kept a lid on the runs but also dismissed Kohli off his first ball and then trapped Manish Pandey lbw in his last over to desert MS Dhoni with the lower middle-order.

“My aim is to bowl stump-to-stump. It will be based on situation and the wicket when I come to bowl, which side of the ground is bigger,” concluded Chahal with utter confidence.

The last time India played a T20I at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association was in the first tie of the ICC World T20 2016. As a matter of fact, India’s plan to prepare a dust-bowl backfired as New Zealand spinners picked up 9 wickets between them, obliterating India to 79 all-out.

The track at Kanpur, however, had everyone puzzled. A few deliveries came onto the bat well, while the others bit the dust. England, on the contrary, batted with conviction, for under lights the batsmen had good time easing the ball past the fielders.

Regardless, the Indian batsmen struggled to find their feet. They, to put things into perspective, failed to apply themselves sensibly, but it was the England bowling that weakened the might of the opposition batsmen that boasted of KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh by altering their pace along with line and length, leaving the Indians unsure of their shot selection.

Chris Jordon, who returned from the Big Bash League, bowled at 6.75 and dismissed Rahul with a nasty bouncer, drawing first blood.

“I got KL Rahul out the other day and playing with him at Bangalore (in IPL), bowled at him loads in the nets. He is a good mate of mine as well. So he had a little laugh about it,” joked Jordon in the pre-match conference.

India had benched the likes of Rishabh Pant and Mandeep Singh, promoting Kohli at the top of the order. “I open in IPL and that is a T20 tournament. So I have an idea (of how to go about it) and that is why I went in to open. I did not go there to look special. Everyone anyway was expecting that. My opening gives more balance to the team,” the Indian captain had said post the defeat.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, allowing Raina to play at No. 3 the position at which he scored his T20I hundred, becoming the first Indian to score a century in all three format. The decision paid off as he went on to score a vital 35 off 23 against a disciplined bowling attack. Therefore, India are likely to retain to the same batting armoury. But we may as well see a change in the bowling department, replacing Rasool with Amit Mishra.

Not that Rasool was out of sorts on his debut but Mishra is India’s need of the hour, given the way they bowled at Kanpur. And the experience bloke averages 13.71 at a strike rate of 6.40.

England, for that matter, do not face the selection conundrum. They have all the bases covered as well as played as a cohesive unit to prove why there are superior in the T20 extravaganza.

Squads:

India: Virat Kohli (c), MS Dhoni (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), KL Rahul (wk), Mandeep Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, , Parvez Rasool, Amit Mishra, Yuzvendra Chahal

England: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings (wk), Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jason Roy, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Chris Jordan, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, David Willey

Time: 19.00 (IST) | 13.30 (GMT)