India's most experienced bowler in the T20 squad, Ashish Nehra, has said picking up early wickets and, later on, the scalp of Ben Stokes were key to turning things around in their five-run win in the second T20 in Nagpur. England were well placed chasing a target of 145 with 42 required from five overs and seven wickets in hand but Jasprit Bumrah and Nehra choked the flow of runs in four of those five overs, claiming three wickets between them in the period.
"When you are defending a score like 145, it is important to pick up a wicket up front, which we got in my [second] over," Nehra said. "It puts pressure on the batsmen. With the wicket slow, if you take two, three wickets early then the batsmen will be on the back foot. If Amit Mishra had not bowled a no-ball, we could have been in the game earlier."
Nehra had opened the bowling with Yuzvendra Chahal and went for only five runs in his first over before dismissing attacking openers Sam Billings and Jason Roy at the beginning of his second over to finish his spell on 2-0-7-2. When Nehra came back to bowl, England were 32 away from the target with four overs left.
"I knew [the 17th] had to be the over where we had to pull it off," Nehra said. "Luckily it happened - that over went for five or six and Ben Stokes got out. We were back in the game, but my last over was fine till the last ball went for a six. Had I picked up a wicket, we would have had 15 to defend in the final over and Jasprit Bumrah's bowling is not easy to score [off]. He still did the job."
Mishra, who came into the XI for Parvez Rasool, had also brought India back in the middle overs when he dismissed Eoin Morgan with an uncharacteristic offspinner in the 11th over and then bowled Stokes two balls later for a first-ball duck before a check with the third umpire revealed he had overstepped for a no-ball. Stokes went on to score 38 off 27 balls and nearly saw England through.
Bumrah has emerged as India's most potent death-overs bowler and bowled three of the last five overs for only 14 runs. England were still favourites when the last over started with eight runs needed and Joe Root, on 38, on strike but Bumrah dismissed him and then Jos Buttler two balls later to turn the tables on England. Bumrah finished with figures of 4-0-20-2, the eighth time he has conceded fewer than six runs per over while completing a full four-over quota in the 23 T20Is he has played. Nehra explained how Bumrah's success is down to his precision with the older ball, compared to his own forte of taking wickets with the new ball.
"Bumrah's strength is bowling with the old ball - whether it's the slower ball or yorker," Nehra said. "He's learning day by day and he will only get better from here. In the one-day series, we saw 350 and 380 were scored but Jasprit Bumrah still bowled five or at least three overs in the end."
Even though Bumrah conceded nine runs in the 16th over - when he came back into the attack - it was Nehra who kept India's chances alive by conceding only five runs in the next over, which also included Stokes' wicket. When England needed 24 form 12 balls, Nehra bowled his last over in which Jos Buttler clubbed the left-arm pacer for a four and six to bring the equation down to eight from six balls.
"When you are bowling in the death you are always under pressure in T20, but still you have to back yourself," Nehra said. "You practice the skills in the nets, but I personally feel as a bowler it is mental toughness that counts. Last five balls were fine, but then the last ball went for a six. I was confident after Buttler got out Jasprit will do the job."
Bumrah did finish the job even though England were only four wickets down and needed eight from the final over. Two wickets and another two dot balls meant England fell short of India's total by five runs.