| Mahendra Singh Dhoni during the T20 match against England, in Pune, on Thursday. (PTI) |
Pune: Arms raised, the smiling faces in the Indian dugout revealed expressions of re-discovering a lost world. Shah Rukh Khan, present in the stands among the spectators, clapped earnestly… Suddenly, Indian cricket was surrounded by happiness.
Yes, the nation witnessed a victory by the Indian cricket team on Thursday. It took the Mahendra Singh Dhonis a change of formats to affect a change of fortunes. But who cares about that… The convincing five-wicket victory in the first T20 International of the two-match series seems to have convinced the nation, blessed with a short-term memory regarding things related to cricket, at least.
Captain Dhoni was confident Dhoni, the manner we like him to be. He won the toss, took the right decision to field, manoeuvred his bowlers well and then, when needed, scored unbeaten 24 runs to see his team safely home. India are 1-0 up in the series and once again headlines will scream an India win.
This England, unlike Alastair Cook’s England, didn’t exhibit the thorough professionalism that won them the Test series. Rather, the Eoin Morgan-led team looked amateurs giving away 14 extra runs in a format where dot balls are as priceless full houses during Test matches are nowadays.
A simple example explains the difference between the two teams. Ravichandran Ashwin, who bowled the second over of the England innings, didn’t concede a single run to earn a rare maiden over.
On the other hand, Jade Dernbach, who opened the England bowling, bowled a nine-ball first over, including three wides. Even worse, Stuart Meaker bowled a similar nine-ball over midway into the India chase, at a stage when the defending side usually aims at being economical.
The 158-run target didn’t look difficult for the Indians from the very beginning of the innings. Gautam Gambhir, and his new opening partner Ajinkya Rahane, began on a confident note. Rahane was the more attacking of the two, despatching Tim Bresnan and Dernbach for over boundaries in consecutive overs.
After four overs, India were 41 without loss, but England looked at a loss of strategies. Things were looking too easy for the hosts. But just to spice up things, in a typical T20 manner, India lost two wickets in the fifth over, bowled by Bresnan. First, Gambhir’s attempted pull was lapped by deep square leg, and then Rahane tried in vain to clear infield and was caught by mid on.
Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh then put on a 49-run partnership.
Speaking about Yuvraj, the man found his touch back to be adjudged the Man of the Match. With the ball, his part-time left-arm spin made him the most successful Indian bowler of the day with three wickets.
With the bat, he looked flamboyant, not for the first time though. Three sixes and two boundaries took him to 38 off just 21 balls before he was dismissed.
After Kohli fell for an individual score of 21, Suresh Raina (26) and Dhoni ensured that there wasn’t threat to an Indian victory. Raina was run out, but by then India had reached 148, a mere 10 runs away from victory.
Earlier, England failed to build on the good work done by opener Alex Hales as their middle-order looked lost in front of the Indian bowling.
Hales hit a 35-ball 56, well supported by Luke Wright, who scored 34. But between the 10th and the 15th over, England scored only 24 runs and lost three wickets. They never really recovered from that. Thanks to some fine hitting towards the closing stages of the innings by Jos Buttler, England crossed the 150-mark.
Apart from Yuvraj, Ashok Dinda was the other standout bowler for India. The pacer was wayward in his initial overs, but came back strongly later. He bowled a tight 19th over — gave just two runs and took two wickets.