| Piyush Chawla, on Sunday |
Colombo: For most of the past one year or so, Harbhajan Singh, who was dropped from the Indian team, was left to ponder over what went wrong with his bowling. On Sunday, at the Premadasa, the off-spinner proved that he still has it in him to unsettle the best of the oppositions.
England crashed to their lowest total of 80 (14.4 overs) in T20 Internationals as Harbhajan claimed four for 12 from his four overs to fashion the 90-run victory.
Piyush Chawla also showed good control in taking two wickets as the spin duo tore through the England batting. Together they accounted for six wickets for 25 runs in their eight overs.
England captain Stuart Broad was left to rue their decision of not including a second spinner in their XI. Playing his first International in more than a year, Harbhajan got the ball to turn and bounce appreciably off the pitch. He bowled Eoin Morgan with his second delivery and then got Tim Bresnan to sweep against the turn.
Jose Butler perished to a classical off-break while Graeme Swann had no clue against the straighter.
Chawla, who had figures of 2/13, got rid of Jonathan Bairstow with a superb googly while Craig Keiswetter, the top scorer with 35, could not read his leg-break.
Earlier, India struggled with the momentum in the middle of their innings after Virat Kohli ensured that they maintained an eight runs-an-over rate at the halfway mark. Thereafter, it was more about consolidation as Swann put a lid on the scoring rate. The off-spinner gave away only 17 runs in his four overs while dismissing danger-man Kohli.
It was only towards the closing stages that they managed to step up the scoring rate, with 51 coming off the last four overs. Rohit Sharma (55 not out off 33 balls) reposed the faith shown in him as he timed his innings to perfection with five boundaries and a six.
That the only six of the innings came off only in the last over spoke volumes of India’s approach. India were 119 for three at the end of the 16th over, before Rohit decided to give the English bowlers the charge.
With Virender Sehwag being rested along with Zaheer Khan and Ravichandran Ashwin, India decided to pull off a surprise in Irfan Pathan opening with Gautam Gambhir. England’s decision to field must have been prompted by the prospect of rain and that the D/L method favours the team batting second in T20.
Pathan didn’t last long but Gambhir also scored a useful 45 off 38 balls, with five boundaries. Gambhir started with a pull shot off Jade Dernbach and then steered the bowler past third man region for consecutive boundaries. That set the momentum and with Kohli (40 off 32 balls) continuing his superb form, England had to pay for picking four pacers.
Kohli, as is the norm these days, looked in sparkling form. He got off the mark with consecutive boundaries through the covers. Bresnan’s attempts to intimidate him with the short ball were met by an upper cut and then a pull for boundaries.
Swann was the only one to apply some control for England. Coming on after the six Powerplay overs had realised 52 runs, he bowled with precision and discipline. He could have picked his second wicket had the wicket-keeper not fumbled in stumping Gambhir on 26.