In a thrilling and fitting finale to England's pre-Christmas tour, captain Eoin Morgan lofted a six off the last ball to seal a historic six-wicket win over India in the second Twenty20 international.
When history beckoned for England's Test side, captain Alastair Cook answered the call. It beckoned again last night for the T20 stand-in skipper Morgan. England's highest chase in 55 previous T20 internationals was 173 against West Indies at Trent Bridge in June.
MS Dhoni's brutal innings left England needing a record 178 runs to end the tour on a high. With 252 balls of the game bowled, they were three short. The near-capacity crowd had created a cauldron but Morgan was the coolest man in the house.
"Last ball of the game, atmosphere like that... it was hugely satisfying, the feeling in the changing room when we sang the team song was amazing," said Morgan. "For the last four overs we just kept saying we were one big over away. We always backed ourselves to clear the ropes. The bowler's under as much pressure, if not more, off the last ball."
When Alex Hales departed in the 15th over for 42 from 33 balls, thoughts of last balls or levelling the series appeared to leave the crease with him.
New batsman Samit Patel only managed a single boundary from 10 balls. The equation when he holed out to Gautam Gambhir off Ashok Dinda was a desperate 29 from 13 balls.
However, Jos Buttler was on hand to serve up a treat. The wicketkeeper faced four balls from the penultimate over, bowled by fallow fast bowler Parvinder Awana.
One, four, one and six runs flew from those four balls: 23 from two overs was now nine from six balls. Three singles, a two and a bye meant Morgan had to hit the final ball of the match for three or more to win. With the field pushed back, there were twos to be had everywhere but no threes – and two was too few.
Dinda was the bowler. He aborted his run-up once. As he set off again, the crowd bayed for victory. Dinda's weapon of choice was the yorker but he dropped short and Morgan responded with a blow that completed the fairy tale and carried the Irishman into the England history books.
At the innings break, the crowd was ready to anoint the Indian captain as a redeemed hero. When Dhoni pulled Jade Dernbach for six off the first and last balls of the 18th over, India's assault on England's bowlers was taking a turn for the brutal. His second maximum may have been his 100th in T20 international matches but England were concerned with history of the more collective variety.
Tim Bresnan halted Dhoni but only after he had plundered 38 off 18 balls. Dernbach atoned for his spendthrift bowling with a miserly final over but England still needed a flying start.
Michael Lumb duly obliged. The 32-year-old could not buy a run in the first match, last night he didn't even need to put his hand his pocket to score his first boundary.
A guided edge down to third man off the first ball of the chase was spilled over the ropes in comical fashion by Awana and that set the tone for a shoddy fielding display.
Inspired by the festive spirit, Awana proceeded to serve up turkey-sized helpings of wides which Lumb tucked into with all the relish of a gluttonous uncle.
The introduction of Yuvraj Singh, who finished with a career-best 3 for 19, halted England's progress. Giddy from his first T20 international half-century, Lumb charged, swung punch-drunk and was still staggering when Dhoni whipped off the bails. After disappointing in Pune, his innings will have staved off the doubters for now.
Luke Wright's T20 future is not in doubt but his technique against the golden arm of Yuvraj left much to be desired. He played around a straight one and when he was plumb in front of the stumps, there could have been no other outcome than a raised finger.
That brought the impish Morgan to the crease and he announced his arrival by reverse sweeping R Ashwin for four with typical dexterity.
Exactly nine overs later, he was announcing his departure from these shores with his crowd-silencing six. As the ball soared deep into the North Stand, Morgan soared high into Buttler's muscular arms.
England won toss
G Gambhir c Bresnan b Wright 17/0/1/27
A M Rahane c Root b Dernbach 3/0/0/5
V Kohli lbw b Meaker 38/0/7/20
Yuvraj Singh c Root b Wright 4/0/0/5
R G Sharma b Tredwell 24/1/1/19
S K Raina not out 35/1/3/24
*†M S Dhoni c Patel b Bresnan 38/2/3/18
R Ashwin c Lumb b Dernbach 1/0/0/3
P P Chawla run out 0/0/0/1
Extras (b2, lb4, w9, nb2) 17
Total (for 8, 20 overs) 177
Fall 1-7, 2-64, 3-71, 4-88, 5-108, 6-168, 7-171, 8-177.
Did not bat A Dinda, P Awana.
Bowling T T Bresnan 4-0-27-1; J W Dernbach 4-0-37-2; S C Meaker 4-0-42-1; L J Wright 4-0-38-2; J C Tredwell 4-0-27-1.
M J Lumb st Dhoni b Yuvraj Singh 50/2/6/34
A D Hales c Dinda b Yuvraj Singh 42/1/4/33
L J Wright lbw b Yuvraj Singh 5/0/0/10
*E J G Morgan not out 49/2/5/26
S R Patel c Gambhir b Dinda 9/0/1/10
†J C Buttler 15/1/1/7
Extras (b1, lb8, w2) 11
Total (for 4, 20 overs) 181
Fall 1-80, 2-94, 3-123, 4-149.
Did not bat J E Root, T T Bresnan, J C Tredwell, S C Meaker, J W Dernbach.
Bowling A Dinda 4-0-44-1; P Awana 4-0-42-0; R Ashwin 4-0-38-0; P P Chawla 4-0-31-0; Yuvraj Singh 4-0-17-3.
Umpires V A Kulkarni and S Ravi (Ind).
TV umpire S Asnani (Ind).
Match referee J J Crowe (NZ).
Man of the match Eoin Morgan (Eng).
Man of the series Yuvraj Singh (Ind).
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