Win toss, win match.
The second T20I match between India and England in Ahmedabad neatly flipped the narrative of the first; in this case, India won the toss, they chased, they won comprehensively. No doubt there will follow a plethora of pompous posturing on how India are world beaters and where England went wrong, mirroring the plethora of pompous posturing that followed the first match on how England were world beaters and where India went wrong.
Or could it just be that the Ahmedabad stadium pitches are a bit rubbish for batting? Of the two tests played here, the first ended after just 2 days; the second dribbled on for 2½ days. For all the scalding criticism of England’s poor batting, it is conveniently forgotten that the supposedly superior batsmen of India got skittled out – thanks to Joe Root’s bafflingly bamboozling part-time off-spin no less! – for only 33 runs more in the first innings of the 3rd test, and in the first innings of the 4th test, England had India stumbling at 146 for 6 and were an umpire’s call away from getting Rishbah Pant out before lunch, and possibly going into the second innings with an actual lead.
Likewise, in the first T20I match last Friday, having lost the toss and being put into bat in better bowling conditions, India’s batsmen made England’s hapless test batters look slightly competent, while in this second T20I, conversely, 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 (pictured above), 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, just as England’s bowlers had set up a rather easy 125 run target for their batsmen in the first match.
It is interesting how the focus always seems to be on the batting, whether positive or negative, even on a bowler’s pitch. In the test series, in the rush to excoriate England’s batting, no one seemed interested in pointing out that, on a turning pitch, whilst England had to contend with the relentlessly brilliant consistency of two of the best spinners in the world, India had the luxury of swatting filthy full tosses and inconsistent half-volleys from England’s sadly mediocre ones. Easy to be good when you are taking sweeties off a toddler. Easy to wonder how India’s batsmen would have done against their own demon bowlers considering they made Joe Root appear unplayable at one point!
This isn’t to disparage India’s batting, rather to give credit where it should be deservedly given. It is their bowlers – the spin variety, unsurprisingly on turning pitches – that made the difference and won the test series for them, and it is their bowlers – the slow ball variety, on a slow pitch – that won this second T20I for them, and helped equalise the series.
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 any toss-loss as they did in the test series.