FINALLY! A close game in this series! And what a game it was! The two best white ball teams heading into the decider on the back of a close game just makes the decider that much more exciting of a prospect! I think the biggest takeaway from the game, for both sides, will be that- it is possible to win batting first! Batting first and winning is special. But with the conditions (the dew) and the team selection (going in with just the 5 bowlers), this win seems even more impressive!
India being put into bat would have led many to believe that the series was a wrap. Who can blame them? This series until now has been a case of “win the toss, win the match”. It was important that the pattern was broken.
First innings: The openers were off to a disappointing start. But I get the feeling that this is the pair that India will stick with for the final T20i too, given how much faith they put into K.L. Rahul and Rohit Sharma. And I really don’t see a need to change it right now. Every player is susceptible to a bad run of form. It happens. Suryakumar Yadav (SKY) made his “debut” (yes, I know it’s his second game, but he didn’t get to bat at all in his first, so just allow me). And what a wonderful first outing as a batsman for India. Looked calm and played in a carefree manner. And what about that shot to get off the mark! Kohli unfortunately had a disappointing game with the bat. He got done in stumped by one of the world’s best with the white ball in Adil Rashid (how this man doesn’t have an IPL contract I don’t know). Pant came in next and looked to steady the ship (understandable, he walked in at 70-3). But it was Shreyas Iyer who came in with a blazing 18 ball 37 that swung the momentum back towards India. He’s often seen as an anchor, but his 200+ strike rate innings was much needed today for India! 185 seemed like an above par score here, so it was a good effort in the end.
England, I thought, bowled ok. Definitely not as consistent and sharp as they have been bowling in the first 3 games. But they didn’t bowl too terribly. SKY and Iyer just seemed to be on top of them in the game.
Second innings: Different story with the English openers. Jason Roy continuing with his trend of setting himself up but failing to convert it into a big one. Nevertheless, he has been very good this series! Buttler fell early to Bhuvi, who seems to be getting back to form. He will probably be one of the strike bowlers for India come the T20 World Cup. Malan came in at 3 for England and did a K.L. Rahul! He hasn’t had the best of times this series (the dismissal this game really summarized his series. Good work by Chahar). But just like India, England are blessed with a number of top top quality white ball players. And also, just like India, I do believe that Morgan and co will stick with Malan long term. Too good of a player to be judged on the back of one series. The English run chase was a strange one. They were about 70 odd for 3 at the end of 11 overs. And the next 5 overs of spin yielded them around 50 runs! This was because of the Bairstow-Stokes partnership. Personally, I feel like the time at which Stokes came in to bat was perfect for him. Gave himself time to get in before launching. He just missed out on his maiden T20i fifty! Bairstow was Chahar’s second scalp for the day and the dangerous partnership was broken at last. And things got better for India as Shardul Thakur got two in two balls in the 17th! The slow balls and the off cutters were working a treat. And with the right hander’s angle going away from Stokes and Morgan, the off cutter did the trick! Sam Curran got cleaned up by Hardik Pandya in the next over. Hardik has been a very very good and reliable player with the ball, in the series and not just this game. Him being in the team as an all-rounder just brings so much more balance to the Indian side. Shardul picked up Chris Jordan in the final over of the match. The 8 run win score line doesn’t really paint the whole picture. And India will be happy considering that they haven’t got their premier bowler in Bumrah available, and still managed to defend a total.
This puts us nicely onto the series decider. I think most people would have predicted a 3-2 result (either way) going into the series, and that’s how it’s been 3 games where both the teams were completely dominant and the one game that was a nail biter. Hopefully we have another in the final game. Should be a good ‘un!