After Pakistan defeated New Zealand in the first semi-final of the ongoing T20 cricket world cup, there was a lot of buzz about a possible India-Pakistan clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on November 13. However, it took less than 24 hours before India’s dream run at the tournament halted and rather, in a one-sided affair after the English openers, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales bludgeoned their way through the Indian bowlers to chase down 169 in merely 16 overs.
Team India, which came into the semi-finals after topping their league group, was deemed as favorites against the English team, who were already suffering from the injuries of their star bowler Mark Wood and batsman Dawid Malan. However, England completely rattled the Indians in their chase and it did not even seem like a contest.
Did the Indian batters score enough?
English captain Jos Buttler won the toss and asked India to bat first. India got off to a very slow start. They were 62-2 at the end of 10 overs and 100-3 after 15 overs.
Some late flurry towards the end by Hardik Pandya, who was the top scorer for India with his 63 off 33 deliveries, ensured India ended with a competitive first innings total of 168.
It is arguable if that was a par score at the Adelaide oval, which has shorter square boundaries and a batting-friendly track. Even the Indian head coach Rahul Dravid spoke at the end of the match that he felt 180-185 would be a par total on this track.
Undeniably, the Indian top order deserves criticism for a very passive and unconvincing start. Opener KL Rahul got dismissed cheaply in the second over, while Rohit Sharma scored a mere 27 off 28 deliveries before going down in the ninth over.
Ironically, the Indian skipper spoke a lot about the “new and aggressive” batting template that they were pursuing in the T20 format coming into the tournament. But the way Indian batting progressed over the tournament, that new template was nowhere to be seen.
To put it into perspective, India’s run rate in the powerplay was just 6.2 runs per over in the tournament, only better than the UAE team. One of the primary reasons for the slow start was the regular fall of wickets at the top. India did not have a single successful opening stand in the six matches they played.
Failed Opening Pair
Both the openers, Rahul and Sharma had a forgettable tournament with the bat. This put a lot of pressure on the middle order where Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, and Pandya did a lot of heavy lifting but that could not compensate for the failure at the top today.
The “intent”, as they say, was missing in the Indian batting against England, and although it seemed they had the momentum going into the innings break, the difference between chasing 190 and 170 psychologically in a knock-out game could be felt today.
No Plan ‘B’ for the Indian bowlers as Hales and Jos Buttler smashed:
England’s destructive batting in limited-overs games is not an unknown fact in modern cricket. Jos Buttler and Alex Hales at the top are quite famed for smashing the bowlers in the powerplay. Buttler started with three boundaries in Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s first over. Hales also took no time to get off to a flying start. In no time,
England was cruising at 63 for no loss at the end of the powerplay and the required rate was down to 7.5 runs per over. Indian skipper Rohit Sharma tried four bowlers in the powerplay and all went for runs. From there, it was no looking back and the English opening pair ended the chase in just 16 overs without losing a single wicket.
English spinners Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone did extract some turn from the surface when they bowled slower through the air. On the other hand, Indian spinners Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin erred with their speed and length. They bowled quicker and short-pitch deliveries which did not trouble the English batsmen much.
In hindsight, the Indian team management would regret not playing the specialist leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who has had a knack for taking wickets and breaking partnerships, something India missed greatly with the ball. The Indian pacers who otherwise had been brilliant so far in the tournament looked lackluster against England.
With this loss, Team India’s world cup journey that started on a high with the victory against Pakistan came to a disappointing end. Whereas England who suffered a setback against Ireland early on in the tournament, fought its way back strongly to book a spot against Pakistan in the finals on Sunday.
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