Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Indians 149 for 8 (Harshal 54, Karthik 34, Glover 3-33) beat Northamptonshire 139 (Zaib 33, Avesh 2-16, Harshal 2-23) by ten runs
Indians' top order folded either side of a rain break at the County Ground in Northampton, but a punchy 34 from their captain Dinesh Karthik and an even punchier half-century from Harshal Patel dragged them up to 149 for 8. Saif Zaib, who was reprieved twice, then gave Indians a late scare, taking the chase down to the last over in which Northamptonshire needed 11. Harshal, however, yorked Zaib off the third ball to secure a hard-fought ten-run victory for Indians.
Despite the absence of Chris Lynn and Jimmy Neesham, it was Northamptonshire who made the early running on a cloudy day. Captain Josh Cobb gave himself the new ball and immediately found turn to pin Sanju Samson lbw for a golden duck. Rahul Tripathi, who slotted in at No.3, tried to manufacture scoring opportunities but ended up toe-ending a scoop off Brandon Glover to the keeper for 7 off 11 balls.
Glover, the Netherlands international, ran in hard and hit the pitch harder in his maiden T20 outing for the Northamptonshire first XI this season. After going past Suryakumar Yadav's outside edge twice, the seamer found it and had him nicking off for a duck. When Ishan Kishan hauled a half-tracker from left-arm wristspinner Freddie Heldreich to deep square leg, Indians were 51 for 4 in the ninth over.
Coming out to bat in the third over and dealing with wristspin isn't Karthik's stronger suit in T20 cricket. He, however, counterpunched his way to 34 off 26 balls. In the last over of the powerplay, Karthik powerfully swatted James Sales, the son of former Northamptonshire stalwart David, to the midwicket boundary.
Karthik then laced Cobb through the covers for four and slog-swept legspinner Alex Russell over midwicket for six. When Karthik attempted a similar shot for a similar result against Helderich, he couldn't get enough elevation, with Ricardo Vasconcelos snagging a spectacular tumbling catch at deep midwicket.
Karthik's dismissal left Indians at 72 for 5, with almost nine overs left in the innings. Harshal and Venkatesh Iyer then struck up a 60-run partnership off 44 balls to push Indians closer to 150. Harshal had a slow start, but he turned up the tempo to notch up a 34-ball half-century. He reached the landmark in grand style when he launched a six into the top tier beyond long-on. All up, Harshal hit five fours and three sixes during his 36-ball 54.
Prasidh Krishna, who had been yanked out of the Test squad, hit splice-jarring lengths in the powerplay and had opener Vasconcelos slicing a thick outside edge to deep third man for 5. Arshdeep Singh couldn't quite control the swing in the early exchanges, but tightened up to have Cobb weakly chipping a catch to Kishan at short midwicket. Much like Prasidh, Avesh explored hard lengths before breaching Ryan Rickelton's defences with a rapid full one.
Northamptonshire slipped further to 77 for 6 in the 11th over when Venkatesh trapped Sales for 12 off 14 balls. Indians might have been sniffing a comfortable win at that point, but Zaib gave their seamers a workout before Harshal castled him in the last over.
Glover (15) and Nathan Buck (18) gave Zaib good company before Yuzvendra Chahal, who was bowling with a beanie, dismissed both of them. Indians then closed out the game with accurate yorkers from Arshdeep and Harshal.
Midway through the game, Indians received the good news of regular captain Rohit Sharma stepping out of isolation and having a net session at Edgbaston after testing negative for Covid-19.
Having swept Ireland 2-0 and beaten Derbyshire and Northamptonshire in the T20 tour games, a Rohit-led India will run into England in the first of the three-match T20I series, in Southampton on Thursday.