Almost the entire season, Virat Kohli has put bat to ball and seen it turn to gold, but his move to open in his Twenty20 International captaincy debut only paid modest dividends as England pulled off a comfortable victory at the Green Park on Thursday.
India started with a 4-0 win in the Test series before beating the rivals in the ODIs 2-1. A similar start was expected in the T20I opener before a huge Republic Day crowd on Thursday, but it remained a dream.
To the surprise of fans, the India batsmen failed to make use of the batsman-friendly pitch after being sent in, and the bowlers failed to contain the England batsmen, who scripted a seven-wicket win with 11 balls to spare.
The win helped England stretch their winning record against India to six from nine matches in this format since 2007. Leading from the front, the most successful batsmen for England in shorter formats on this tour, skipper Eoin Morgan again underlined his utility, hitting a 38-ball 51.
From the first ball, Morgan looked confident as openers Jason Roy (22, 10, 3×4, 1×6) and Sam Billings (19, 11b, 2×6) set the tone. The two collected 20 runs from Jasprit Bumrah’s first over to help the team to 24 in two overs.
Thereafter, an 83-run third-wicket partnership between Morgan and Joe Root (46*, 46b, 4×4) sealed India’s fate.
There were exciting moments when young leggie Yuzhvendra Chahal got two wickets in the first over. Roy played on off a loose drive, and Billings failed to read a quick one. In his second spell, Bumrah got Root in the 17th over but it was a no-ball.
Earlier, Kohli and his men could score just 147 for seven after being sent in. Barring MS Dhoni (36*, 27b, 3×4), Suresh Raina (34, 23b, 4×4, 1×6) and Kohli (29, 26b, 4×4), the others could not challenge the England bowlers. Off-spinner Moeen Ali finished with two for 21, and was declared man-of-the match.
Billed a “bowling terror”, Tymal Mills conceded 27 runs for one wicket. Before he could send down the first delivery on Thursday, the packed stadium cheered Kohli loudly.
Facing Mills, Kohli played the first two deliveries with soft hands, but sent one of Mills’ fastest deliveries for a four to backward point to open the account for India. In the same over, KL Rahul slashed Mills’ short and wide delivery for four in similar fashion. In his first two overs, the Sussex bowler conceded 15 runs.
Mills was impressive in his second spell, sending back Hardik Pandya (9) off his second delivery. Pandya failed to keep a short one down and his shot went to Billings at deep backward point.
Kohli displayed good stroke-play, hitting four fours in his 26-ball 29. A chip off Moeen ended his innings as Morgan took the catch. This didn’t deter Suresh Raina, who played his usual shots, including lofted pulls. The only six of the India innings came when he smacked Ben Stokes’ short one over mid-on.
Raina, who had consecutive half-centuries in two IPL games here last summer, looked confident as he stroked the ball well. But a yorker from Stokes uprooted his leg stump. His 23-ball 34 contained four boundaries.
Rahul (8), Yuvraj Singh (12) and Manish Pandey (3) found the going tough. Rahul edged a simple catch to Rashid at square leg, Yuvraj gave a low catch at the same position, while Pandey failed to read a slower one from Moeen and was leg before.