India blown away by top-notch England in opening T20I skirmish


England showcased why they are a formidable side in the shortest format with a superlative all-round performance to seal a dominant 8-wicket win over India at Motera and take a 1-0 lead in this marquee five-match T20I series.

Rampant and in-form pacers, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, prised open India’s famed top order with a combination of raw pace and skill to restrict the home team to an underwhelming 124/7. In response, the visitors cantered home without much fuss, nicking off the target for the loss of just their openers Jason Roy and Jos Buttler, and with more than four overs to spare. Following their tepid performances, India’s batsmen could well indulge in a bit of soul-searching, and come back for the next game with more clarity and intent.

Blown away by brute pace

Never underestimate the power of genuine pace in T20s. On a Motera wicket that was supposed to grip and aid spin, Wood and Archer — two of the quickest bowlers in international cricket — ran through India’s big names like a hot knife through butter. Archer, in many ways, set the tone when he got a rusty KL Rahul to drag a wide delivery back onto his stumps on just his second delivery. England captain Eoin Morgan then unleashed Wood, who blew away Shikhar Dhawan with brute pace. Bowling with a short-leg, the 31-year-old clocked speeds in excess of 150kmph with ease. Dhawan looked totally out of depth against Wood, as he kept getting beaten for pace. A sharp bumper unsettled the Indian opener, and prompted him to go for an ungainly slog to get his stumps uprooted.

In between, leg-spinner Adil Rashid accounted for captain Virat Kohli for a duck, putting India deeper in trouble. After the Powerplay, India were precariously placed at 22/3, with their top-3 registering only 5 runs between them — their lowest tally in T20Is. One has to go back to Cardiff in 2018 for the last time India lost three or more wickets inside six overs in the shortest format.

Last month, Wood had a difficult choice to make. He had entered the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, but was having second thoughts considering the hectic international schedule, which could see him spend close to 16 weeks away from his family. The speedster opted out of the auction at the last minute. While turning his back on “life-changing” money in the IPL was a hard decision to make, the Durham pacer insisted that spending time with family and staying fresh for England duty was his priority.

A refreshed Wood was a sight to behold. He may have finished with the solitary scalp of Dhawan, but the manner in which he had India’s bevy of stroke-makers hurrying into their shots showcased his value to the side. Archer returned with figures of 3/23, removing Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur off consecutive deliveries later in the Indian innings.

Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan and Sam Curran also kept pegging India back with timely scalps in the middle overs. India’s batsmen didn’t show much stomach for a fight. Rishabh Pant looked in ominous touch, before holing out to Jonny Bairstow in the deep for 21. Pandya, batting on 19, was poised to tee off, before slapping an Archer delivery to mid-off. Barring Shreyas Iyer’s 48-ball 67, the hosts looked lacklustre.

Iyer, the lone bright spot

After 24 matches for India in the shortest format, it seemed like Shreyas Iyer had sealed his spot at No.4. But with a stroke-player like Suryakumar Yadav breathing down his neck, Iyer was under pressure when he walked out to bat with the scoreboard reading 20/3 in five overs. India had their backs firmly pressed against the wall. England bowlers had kept them on a tight leash, and boundaries were hard to come by. Nevertheless, Iyer’s splendid 67 was a knock replete with exquisite cover-drives off Rashid, emphatic flicks, and a masterclass on how to pace an innings in T20s from a precarious position. Barring a 54-run fifth-wicket stand with Pandya, he hardly got any support. His lone ranger effort accounted for more than 54 per cent of the Indian total. Without his efforts, India would have struggled to reach the three-figure mark.

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