In my previous blog post on Tuesday (waddya mean you didn’t read it, why not?!), after India had won the second T20I against England in Ahmedabad, I concluded rather presciently:
‘On to round 3. It would be disappointing if this match was also won by the toss-winning team, but given Virat Kohli’s penchant for losing tosses – he’s lost 4 out of 6 so far – England should go in as favourites, not because they are the better cricket team, but because the opposition captain is a bit rubbish at gambling. Fortunately for India, their bowlers’ pitching is far better than their captain’s tossing, so they have as good a chance of overturning the toss-loss as they did in the test series.’
Well, England did, indeed, win the toss in the third match and go on to win, but in the fourth match yesterday, India were able to overturn the win toss-win match paradigm thanks to some outstanding bowling.
Yep, just call me Mystic Meg. Nope, you can’t have this weekend’s lottery numbers.
In that previous post on the second match, I also complained that:
‘England batted first on a slow pitch and got done by India’s pacers bowling exclusively slow balls. So, it was rather ironic that the wonderfully rhyme slyme monikered opener Ishan Kishan should be named man-of-the-match for slamming the ball about when it was the bowlers who had set up a fairly attainable par score for their batting brethren…’
Rinse and repeat. In the fourth match, the bowlers once again made the difference, restricting England to 177-8, in reply to India’s 185-8, but the man-of-the-match award was given, predictably, to a batsman, this time Suryakumar Yadav, for the highest score of 57. However, it was not Yadav but the three pace bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur, that ultimately won the match for India and helped level the series at 2-2.
With England set a fairly challenging total of 186 to chase, Kumar opened the bowling for India with an excellent maiden over, and then crucially took Jos Buttler’s wicket in the 3rd over, just when England’s most destructive batsman was starting to hit big, to restrict England in the powerplay. England, though, are an excellent batting side, and were level with India after 16 overs at 140-4 and on course to win.
Then, in the 17th over, Shardul Thakur (pictured above) changed the match. With Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan threatening to take the match away from India, Thakur struck with the first two balls of the over, smartly bowling off-cutters to take out the two dangerous left-handers. Had one of the two stayed in, it is very probable that England would have gone on to win the match. Hardik Pandya subsequently bowled out England’s last proper batsman, Sam Curran, in the following over to put India on course for victory.
In contrast, during India’s innings, Yadav was already out by the end of the 14th over, controversially given caught out, with the score at 110-4, a score that England had no trouble matching in their innings. For them, the damage was done in the 18th over, when Chris Jordan conceded a disastrous 18 runs, with Shreyas Iyer grabbing 11 and Hardik Pandya (pictured below) scoring 7. Added to those 7 crucial runs out of an overall batting score of 11 (bearing in mind England lost by 8 runs), Pandya’s bowling figures of 2 wickets from 4 overs for just 16 runs at a phenomenal economy rate of 4.00, made him perhaps the best candidate for man-of-the-match.
Alas, just as with India’s win in the second match, the bowlers did the work and the batsmen took the glory. This bias certainly reinforces the perception that the T20 format always favours the batmen. Still, after three tepid one-sided contests, it was great to see a match finally go to the last over, and with India levelling the series at 2-2, it sets up, hopefully, a thrilling finale.
Statistically, India’s captain, Virat Kohli, is due a toss win, and if he does, it will be England’s turn to try and overcome the toss loss. If they need any pointers, they should look to India’s bowlers for the way they cleverly slow-balled their team to an improbable victory.