Be it Tests or T20Is, India’s youngsters are game-ready. If the tour to Australia witnessed the consummate initiation of the young crew into the five-day game, Ishan Kishan illustrated that he’s ready for the international leap in T20Is with a blazing 32-ball 56, punctuated by five fours and four sixes, that gave the chase the required impetus.
The 22-year-old opener’s carefree batting made the fans dance in the aisles at Motera – to paraphrase Tony Greig. Chasing 165 for victory, India got there in 17.5 overs, winning by seven wickets and squaring the series. Virat Kohli made full use of a reprieve on 10 and anchored the chase with 73 not out off 49 balls.
But Kishan was the star of the night, underlining yet again IPL’s invaluable contribution to Indian cricket. The likes of Kishan can nonchalantly flick Jofra Archer for a four to get off the mark because the IPL has made them a finished article. The way 22-year-old rode into the pull to smash a Sam Curran delivery, or his muscling of a Ben Stokes half-tracker for a six, had been breathtaking. He is riding a rich vein of form too. Kishan had scored 516 runs for Mumbai Indians at a strike-rate of 145-plus in the last year’s IPL. More recently, he hammered a 94-ball 173 for Jharkhand against Madhya Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He carried his form to international cricket.
It leaves India with a happy problem of plenty to live with. Rohit Sharma is undroppable when he is fit or not resting. KL Rahul was to be his supposed partner, or that’s how Kohli hinted before the series. But after back-to-back failures, Rahul’s place suddenly looks vulnerable, unless he regains his vaunted touch soon enough. It could also mean the descent of Shikhar Dhawan.
Kishan illustrated that he is an impact batsman. He had an odd slice of luck, when
Stokes dropped him on 40 off Adil. By then, however, he had already made a serious impression. His job was made easier by a fine bowling performance.
As India restricted England to 164 on a benign Motera pitch, the team’s bowling at the death stood out. Shardul Thakur put on an exhibition of cutters and cut down England’s hopes of a back-end explosion. They had the wherewithal to do that – 129/4 after 15 overs and Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes at the crease. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar was right on the money, from the outset. He mixed his deliveries and kept the batsmen guessing. Hardik Pandya chimed in with an excellent 17th over, conceding just six runs.
From India’s perspective, Morgan’s wicket was important. Thakur dismissed him with a wide off-cutter. The medium-pacer has two different varieties of that delivery – holding the seam up and rolling his fingers over it, besides holding the ball cross-seam like an off-spinner and giving it a tweak. The one that got Morgan was of the cross-seam variety, bowled wide outside the off stump. It was a massive wicket, as a difference of around 20 runs could have proved decisive. Thakur, then, dismissed Stokes with a conventional off-cutter, holding the seam up and rolling his fingers over.
Back of a good length ploy worked well for the hosts. One such delivery from Kumar, in the first over, trapped Jos Buttler leg-before for a golden duck. They were abetted by shrewd captaincy too, as Kohli reintroduced Washington Sundar in the 12th over. At that juncture, England were going at eight runs per over and Jason Roy was well-set.
Washington removed him with the first ball, a flattish and fullish delivery, which Roy could not get underneath. He then foxed Bairstow with pace variations. After bowling two deliveries at 96kph and 101kph, he slowed the third one down to mid-80s, which induced a mistimed slog-sweep. Maturity from the Indian youngsters has become par for the course, from Kishan to Washington.
Subsequently, England could manage just 35 runs, including two boundaries, in the last five overs. The choke, in turn, relieved India’s batsmen of considerable scoreboard pressure. Kishan took care of the rest.