It was a tale of too wide and too few for England in Pune and too easy for India as they won the first Twenty20 international with 13 balls to spare . Nothing can take the shine off the Test side’s historic efforts but the ease with which the hosts meandered to victory here is a distracting blot on the tourists’ record on this tour.
MS Dhoni’s ears have been ringing with unfamiliar calls for his resignation. Last night they rang with the more familiar cries of adulation as the India captain struck the winning runs off Stuart Meaker, who was making his T20 debut alongside spinner James Tredwell, with Jonny Bairstow left out and Jos Buttler assuming wicketkeeping duties.
Despite a thunderous half-century from opener Alex Hales and Buttler striking a rapid 33 off 21 balls at the end of England’s innings, the tourists’ total of 157 for 6 was, in captain Eoin Morgan’s words, “probably about 10 or 15 short of par”.
Too few runs at the interval became a case of too wide by the bowlers. Morgan gave the new ball to Jade Dernbach, whose first two deliveries were leg-side wides. The Surrey bowler erred again and his nine-ball opening over set the tone for an indisciplined bowling display.
“We said at the halfway stage we would have to do things exceptionally well to win this game because the wicket did play so well and we just lacked a bit of discipline really,” said Morgan after the game.
Dernbach’s new-ball partner, Tim Bresnan, followed up his first-ball duck in England’s innings with a first-ball wide and was hit for a third-ball six as the bowlers handed out early presents to Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane.
The bowlers’ generosity came in sharp contrast to the brutality with which the England batsmen had initially set about the Indian attack. After a ponderous one from 10 balls at the top of the order from Michael Lumb, Hales and Luke Wright set off at a blistering pace.
Hales brought up his 50 off just 26 balls with an atypical single but when he was clean bowled by the left-arm spin of Yuvraj Singh, he had added just six more runs from nine balls as the wheel nuts began to wobble. Two balls later, the wheels fell off as Morgan offered Rahane a simple catch at long-on. When Samit Patel hit Yuvraj for four in the 15th over, it was their first boundary for 26 balls.
Morgan admitted: “We were a bit naive in the fact we didn’t compensate for the wickets and again didn’t set it up for the end.”
Buttler’s final frantic efforts were too little to offer real succour to the bowlers. Meaker provided some cause for optimism, however. His opening over provided much-needed menace and then Bresnan offered hope.
With the third ball of the fifth over he had Gambhir caught by the 6ft 5in Hales on the boundary rope – a smaller man would have seen the ball sail over him for six – before, in the same over, Patel claimed an excellent running catch to dismiss Rahane for 19 off 13 balls.
That brought Yuvraj to the crease with the scoreboard reading 44-2 after five overs. His golden arm had already accounted for three England wickets – Hales, Wright and Morgan – and he took the game away from England with his bat.
“He’s a very clean striker of a cricket ball,” said Morgan of Yuvraj, “and always has that danger factor – he had one over when he went berserk.” By the time he departed for 38 off 21, he had added 49 runs with Virat Kohli off only five overs and the hard work was done.
Morgan missed the chance to run out his opposite number from the last ball of the 13th over. As Dhoni tumbled to the crease, Morgan dragged his throw wide of the stumps from five metres out and with it went England’s last chance of victory. The overthrow run meant India required just 43 runs from 42 balls and from that point on, bar Morgan’s run-out of Suresh Raina, it was all too easy for India.
3 Wins for England in their last nine T20 internationals
160 Alex Hales’ strike rate – the highest for an Englishman against India in T20s (50+ scores only)
19 T20 wickets for Yuvraj Singh – only Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan have taken more for India
50 England’s win percentage in T20s against India – winning three and losing three since late 2007