A long tour of England can bring contingencies, and India responded gloriously to the first of those to maintain their clean sheet in T20I bilateral series of three matches. Central to India's win was a man who might yet have to play a big part in the rest of the summer: allrounder Hardik Pandya
stepped up with India missing two of their first-choice quicks to injury and dropping Kuldeep Yadav, who had taken five wickets two matches ago, because of the small straight boundaries.
Pandya bowled smartly, not giving England anything to drive and changing his pace often in his personal best analysis of 4 for 38, reducing a marauding England batting to 198 when they had looked good for 225. He was there with centurion Rohit Sharma
when India needed to pull themselves out of a brief slowdown when the 15th and 16th over produced seven runs and the wicket of Virat Kohli. Pandya's 33 off 14 took off any pressure that might have been on his Mumbai Indians' team-mate as India chased the target down with more than an over to spare.
There was consternation from certain quarters when Kuldeep was left out for debutant swing bowler Deepak Chahar
. The pitch looked green, and the straight boundaries were short. India reasoned they wanted a team for the day and not based on history. A few experts said you pick your best bowlers no matter the conditions. To add to India's woes, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a stiff back. Jasprit Bumrah was already ruled out of the limited-overs leg of the tour. This is an Indian side confident of taking a punt and going along with it. Their confidence was about to be tested.
England get stuck into inexperienced attack
The pace of the three right-arm quicks posed Jos Buttler
and Jason Roy no challenge. The Powerplay of 73 for 0 was the best in T20Is in England, and the home side's second-best effort anywhere. In a knock that didn't even last half of England's innings, Roy equalled the England record for most sixes: seven. Pandya was among those taken apart, for 22 in his first over, his most expensive over in T20Is.
Two wickets fell in the next seven overs but the runs kept coming. That Yuzvendra Chahal bowled four overs for just 30 when the going rate was higher than 10 might have raised doubts in the Indian minds. They were looking at seven overs of quick bowling with no swing available and small boundaries to defend with 132 already on the board.
Pandya strikes, and keeps striking
Pandya, who had come back with a two-run second over, showed he had learned from his mistake early on. He wasn't bowling as short as he had done earlier but still didn't give England the length to drive or to slog. He rolled his fingers on the ball to good effect, too. Eoin Morgan top-edged a slog, was dropped, but repeated it next ball for MS Dhoni to take one of his world-record five catches in the innings. Alex Hales looked to late-cut him and got the top edge. Pandya came back in the 18th over to thwart another surge from England, this time taking out Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. That England fell 25 short was down entirely to these wickets.
Coming into this match, Rohit had averaged 26.08 at a strike rate of 104.1 in all T20 cricket since February 17 this year. Those were surprising numbers for a batsman of his ability in limited-overs cricket, which is probably why not many questioned his place in a line-up overflowing with batting talent. Rohit showed why by dismantling the England bowling with 11 fours and five sixes. Most of the big hitting was done down the ground because of the boundaries but when England went short, he was equal to it with his pulls. For support he had KL Rahul during a 41-run second-wicket stand and Kohli in an 81-run association for the third wicket.
How ineffective the bowling, how short England were of a par score, was all evident in how all the three wickets fell to exceptional catches. the pick of the lot was the third one as Chris Jordan hung on a Kohli shot drilled back at him in his follow-through. That wicket and the consequent quiet, with Pandya promoted ahead of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, left India 44 to get in four overs.
Just then, though, Pandya hit the first two balls of the 17th over for fours, and India were back on track. Rohit duly reached his hundred, and Pandya provided the exclamation mark with a six off the fourth ball of the 19th over.