When England won the toss, it seemed like it was going to be a tough task for India but with Rohit, Suryakumar, Virat and Hardik scoring runs for fun, they piled on a huge 224. England got off to a poor start, only to make that up with a great middle-over phase but in the end, it didn't even matter.
Virat Kohli - the opener and India - a botched plan
Oh well, if there’s something that I have indeed learnt over the last few days of watching the T20I series, it is that nothing will ever go as expected and words are mere words, especially if it is from the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli. Ahead of the series opener, in specific words - he mentioned that India would trust KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma as the first-choice openers and come to the fifth match of a bilateral series, Rahul is already out, maybe even out of the plans in the top-order setup.
Now not just that, if Rahul being dropped was surprising, Kohli promoted himself at the top of the order, which is as surprising as it could ever get. The Indian skipper, who has always called No.3 spot his home, opens the innings and that doesn’t solve one bit of the problem that India have but opens a Pandora box of trouble for them. Over the last three years, since 2018 - in T20s, Kohli has opened seven innings, where he averages 31 at a strike-rate of 127.8 but with a dot-ball percentage of 41.2%.
Now that’s the most surprising of factors, after going bang-bang in the pressers, Kohli has decided to shift his approach mid-series and pigeon all the plans. While the move has a probability of empowering Rohit to be aggressive, it is the worst possible result for India, especially considering that this series was supposed to crystalize their World T20 plans, now what about that, skips?
Ro’hit’man understands the need of the hour
After being rested for the first two T20Is, Rohit Sharma was reintroduced into the playing XI for the third T20I and everything since then has changed dramatically. Rohit unleashed the best version of himself in the decider when he knocked the ball to all parts of the ground without breaking a drop of sweat. Right when he pierced the gap against Jofra Archer, it was given that Rohit was going to have a fruitful night and England, a rather long one.
Every time he was dished with a short delivery, the treatment was constant, outside the boundary ropes, for a LONG six. And it never really stopped on the night, as Rohit continued to take down bowlers, of various kinds, against pace, something that he has struggled in the past. It never really stopped, he continued to find non-existent gaps, he continued to clear the boundary with ease and when he was dropped, he made sure it was costly for England, as he ended his knock with a 34-ball 64, ending all doubts, if there was one?
England’s raw pace finally slowed and toasted
The raw pace and spin wizardry - two approaches that England and India have taken in the series. While both of them have had their fair share of success when things go wrong, it absolutely goes horribly wrong, as was on show tonight. In the humid conditions of Ahmedabad, there was Jofra Archer and Mark Wood - absolutely steaming against the Indian batsmen but the result was always them walking back, disappointed.
Two phases - powerplay and middle-overs - where England bowlers, especially pacers have had their success, turned out to be their nightmare tonight. In the first six overs, Wood and Archer bowled two overs each - in turn, conceding 28 and 19 runs respectively. When fire meets wood, it has a property to change its shape but here, both England’s fiery pace and Mark Wood couldn’t change proceedings. It didn’t end there, in the middle-overs, from 7 to 11, was yet again carnage, where only one over - came via spin.
So while raw pace might have worked out well in the past for England, on nights like this, with them looking one-dimensional, things won’t just go bent but will go well toasted. A series in India was England’s rare chance of having their plans well established but as it has evolved in the series, the visitors find themselves travelling backwards in their approach, despite winning tosses.
India's off-cutters are not just tried but quite tested as well
Going into the World T20, India had to find out a plan, a rather perfect one - to not just put the batsmen on the back-foot but also tempt them into playing a false-shot, that would bring about a dismissal. Against England, they have finally figured the right one, even without having the services of Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammed Shami. Not yorkers, not the full-tosses but it was the willy ol' off-cutters, which really has been England's nemesis in this series. Thrice in four games, England's slow and offy-plan has been yielding them rewards, with of-course, high-risk attached to it.
While India have figured out a way, English batsmen have not figured out a plan against the off-cutters, the slower-deliveries, which has deceived them from time to time. Even so much so, that the common criticism for them has been that they haven't attacked the bowlers as per the length, instead just holding back for a wild swing. If England are really going into the World T20 as the favourites, they would have to largely figure out a way, a plan rather to not just dodge the bullet but avoid the situation with the gun itself. Unless they do that, the Three Lions are in a tough spot of bother.
Last game, they were in a situation of ascendance, this game - not quite different but whenever they have been at the top of the proceedings, the slower deliveries have pegged them back. Slower the ball, lower the runs and higher the chances of England struggling. Back to the white-board, lads!