The five-match T20I series against top-ranked England has given India a chance to assess their standing in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in October this year. It has also given some players who are coming out of injuries a chance to test their battle-readiness.
India will be happy with the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the death bowling of Shardul Thakur. It was Thakur and Hardik Pandya who, despite the dew, tilted the scales in India’s favour in the fourth T20I on Thursday.
For a while during the 65-run partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, it looked like England would continue the trend of chasing down targets in this series, in which the toss has been a significant factor, but Thakur’s two wickets off successive balls to get rid of Stokes and skipper Eoin Morgan ensured India did not miss the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja.
With the series level at 2-2 ahead of the final one in Ahmedabad on Saturday, India will have all to play for. It’ll be the frenetic rush of the IPL after this series followed by the World Test Championship (WTC) and the tour of England.
Unless the proposed T20I series against South Africa and New Zealand happen, India will have to ride on the IPL wave going forward. The Indian team management too will be happy with the way in which the IPL heroes have grabbed their chances.
Ishan Kishan’s stunning counter-attack in the second T20I reflected the confidence that comes from taking on the best in the business in the IPL. A groin injury saw him miss the fourth game but Suryakumar Yadav proved an equal replacement. That he didn’t get a chance to prove his worth on debut didn’t matter as he launched into the England attack on Thursday.
Kohli, however, will be worried about India’s show in the Powerplay. India’s best was 50/1 in the second match, but they’ve also recorded two of their worst Powerplay performances, 22/3 in the first and 24/3 in the third match, in T20Is in this series.
Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have combined clever variations of pace and bounce to unsettle the Indians upfront. The visitors have lived up to their top billing in all departments and won the third match by eight wickets in a fitting tribute to Morgan, as he became the first player from England to make 100 T20I appearances.
The Englishmen seem to be relishing the “pressure of T20 final in a World Cup year,” as Stokes put it. It remains to be seen who will have the last laugh.