In a fine display of their craft, Kuldeep Yadav and KL Rahul helped India draw first blood on the much-anticipated tour of England with a convincing eight-wicket win in the T20I series opener at Manchester. If Kuldeep’s variations left the hosts clueless in the first half, Rahul’s brutal yet clean striking forced them into a meek surrender in the second. After Kuldeep’s career-best 5 for 24 restricted them to a modest 159 despite a blazing start, Rahul became only the second India to notch up a second T20I ton as India overhauled the target with 10 balls to spare.
It promised to be a run fest at Old Trafford, and started like one when India inserted the hosts in and Roy and Buttler wasted no time to get going. England’s innings though revolved around the latter’s seventh fifty in last eight T20Is, with Roy and Willey in supporting roles at the two ends respectively and a dramatic collapse in the middle.
Buttler played a second fiddle in the early parts to Roy who went on the offensive against India’s strike bowlers, prompting Kohli to bring on wrist spin as early as the fourth over of the tour. However, Buttler switched gears to not let Chahal settle in by picking up a six and a boundary to propel England to 44 in the first over overs. Roy’s exit combined with Hales’s struggle to get a move on helped India claw their way back. But a well-set Buttler went after Hardik Pandya just after the halfway mark with a big 18-run over to make up for lost time.
Kuldeep then turned the tables on England in his next two overs, with most his victims falling after failing to pick his googly. It started with Hales attempting a sweep across the line and exposing his stumps. His triple strikes in the next over left England with very little scope to make a comeback from. Morgan was lured into a slog-sweep and holed out to his opposite number in the deep, before both Bairstow and Root were stumped off successive balls completely outfoxed by the wrong ‘uns. Willey did his best to offset it with a massive 20-run over next up but Buttler’s wicket in the penultimate over cost England a few runs eventually at the death. Reprieved a ball ago when he tried to attack India’s best bowler on the day, Buttler attempted to clear the long-on ropes once more and this time Kohli didn’t make a mistake as Kuldeep completed his maiden fifer. Willey kept at it, finishing with an unbeaten 29 that gave England a respectable though underwhelming 159.
The second half belonged to Rahul, who brought forward his purple patch to England. It’s not everyday a batsman outplays Rohit Sharma at the other end with such ease, but Rahul did well to justify his promotion to the No. 3 slot with an unbeaten hundred in the chase. He offered a glimpse of the form he is in when he lofted Jordan over the covers fence for a six to kick-start his 54-ball knock. The Karnataka batsman was also offered a life on 17 when Roy shelled a sitter at backward point but there was no looking back for him as he made England pay the price for the drop.
Moeen Ali came under the attack as soon as he was brought on with Rahul reverse-sweeping him for a four and following it up with a mighty six straight down, and then repeating it all in his following over. In between he also raised his fifth T20I fifty, off just 27 balls. Plunkett too came in the firing line, just after the halfway mark in India’s chase, with Rahul hammering the pacer for 20. He added two boundaries to his tally – sandwiched between two massive sixes – to move on to 85 from 65 in the matter of five deliveries.
Rohit played his part rather quietly in the 123-run partnership, chipping in with 32 off 30. His wicket and Kohli’s sedate start slowed India down a bit but with less than five an over required, the tourists were in no rush. In a sharp contrast to a better part of his innings, Rahul consumed eight deliveries to move on from 90 to that second T20I hundred before Kohli sealed the deal with a six in the penultimate over.
Brief scores: England159/8 in 20 overs (Jos Buttler 69; Kuldeep Yadav 5-24) lost to India 163/2 in 18.2 overs (KL Rahul 101*, Rohit Sharma 32; Adil Rashid 1-25) by eight wickets.