India 198 for 8 (Hardik 51, Suryakumar 39, Hooda 33, Jordan 2-23, Moeen 2-26) beat England 148 (Moeen 36, Hardik 4-33, Arshdeep 2-18, Chahal 2-32) by 50 runs
The post mortem into India's group-stage exit from last year's T20 World Cup was long and gruesome, but perhaps the diagnosis was simple: they are a different team with a fully-fit Hardik Pandya
in their middle order.
Hardik was a bit-part player at the World Cup following back and shoulder injuries, facing 45 balls and bowling only four overs across five games, but at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday night, he was the driving force behind India's 50-run win. He top-scored with 51 off 33 as India racked up 198 for 8, playing with plenty of attacking intent, then took three wickets with the new ball to dismantle England's top order, before finishing with 4 for 33.
and Suryakumar Yadav
both contributed with fast-scoring cameos, putting England's attack under pressure, though Chris Jordan
's impressive spell of 2 for 23 in four overs, eschewing his usual yorker plan for hard lengths, kept India below 200.
England needed a fast start but slumped to 33 for 4 against the new, swinging ball. Arshdeep Singh
, on debut, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar
both found prodigious movement as the sun went down, Bhuvneshwar bowling Buttler for a first-ball duck with a hooping inswinger.
Hardik struck twice in his first over, removing Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone, then removed Jason Roy with the first ball after the powerplay for an uncharacteristically scratchy 4 off 16 balls. Moeen and Harry Brook added 61 for the fifth wicket in six overs to keep England's hopes alive, but Yuzvendra Chahal
removed both of them in the space of five balls to end the game as a contest.
High risk, high reward
India went hard against England in the powerplay, and Moeen in particular. Buttler introduced his offspinner to bowl the third over, matching him up against the left-handed Ishan Kishan, but after Kishan knocked a single, Rohit slog-swept him for consecutive fours through square leg.
He fell immediately after, edging through to Buttler, but Hooda continued to take Moeen on, launching consecutive sixes over long-on to move to 12 off three balls. Kishan fell to his second ball from Moeen as Buttler had planned, top-edging a sweep to short fine-leg, but India finished the powerplay 66 for 2, with Moeen's two overs worth 26.
Hard lengths pay off
England have struggled big time at the death over the past year, epitomised by their defeat to New Zealand in last year's World Cup semi-final, and made a distinctive shift in their plans in a bid to address that issue. Jordan tends to rely heavily on his yorkers, but used the long square boundaries at the Ageas Bowl to his advantage, banging the ball into the pitch and hitting 89mph/144kph.
From 150 for 4 after 14 overs, India's innings fell away somewhat. Matt Parkinson, playing as England's main wristspinner with Adil Rashid making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca
, dragged his figures back after an expensive start but was thrashed for six by Hardik to bring up a 30-ball half-century.
He fell to Reece Topley shortly after, slashing to deep point, and despite a couple of late boundaries from Dinesh Karthik, India fell short of the 200-plus score that had looked like an inevitability for much of the innings.
Win the powerplay, win the game
Bhuvneshwar's first over was a masterpiece, moving four balls away from Roy before hooping an inswinger through Buttler and into the top of his leg stump. Arshdeep, the left-arm seamer who starred for Punjab Kings at the IPL this year, shared the new ball on his debut and moved it both ways, starting his international career with a maiden to Roy.
Malan hit England's first four boundaries, three of them in the space of four balls, as he found his timing against length balls. But then he dragged Hardik's nip-backer on to his own stumps as he looked to guide him away through third. Hardik struck again in his second over, following Livingstone as he shuffled across to scoop, inducing a glove through to Karthik, and when Roy miscued the first legal ball after the powerplay to third, India had the game sewn up.
Moeen and Brook kept England alive, attacking Chahal and Axar Patel, but Brook picked out midwicket and Moeen was stumped in the same Chahal over to end any faint hopes of a comeback win. Hardik claimed his fourth wicket when Sam Curran edged behind, and Arshdeep marked his debut by dismissing Topley, caught behind off a slower ball, and Parkinson, slapping to point.
The margin of victory would have been even wider but for India's mistakes in the field, with Karthik, who dropped three catches, particularly culpable. But a 50-run win reflected their dominance. With five members of the Test squad returning for Saturday's game at Edgbaston, they will be confident of sealing the series.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98