The manner in which India went about their business in pursuit of their target of 199 in the third and final Twenty20 International reverberated with their prowess in the shortest format of the game. Riding on an unbeaten 56-ball ton from Rohit Sharma a handy knock from Virat Kohli (43 off 29) and a typically impactful one from Hardik Pandya (33 not out off 14), India smoothly overhauled the target with seven wickets in hand to clinch the three-game series 2-1 at the County Ground in Bristol on Sunday (July 8).
Jason Roy's six-laden 31-ball 67 which provided England a rollicking start but the tourists came back strongly and controlled the damage in the second half of the innings to limit the hosts to 198 for 9. Rohit then struck his third T20I hundred, only the second man to do so in international cricket, as India finished off the game with eight balls to spare.
On a small ground, India were bereft of the guile of their strike bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar who sat out because of a niggle from the last game. With Jasprit Bumrah already ruled out of the limited-overs leg of the tour, and Virat Kohli making a brave call to bench Kuldeep Yadav considering the dimensions of the ground, India’s bowling looked thin on experience and out of depth. Roy recognised the fact and seized the opportunity to launch a scathing attack. Jos Buttler, along with whom Roy added 94 off 47 for the first wicket, too was in ominous touch helping himself to a stroke filled 21-ball 34.
It was Siddharth Kaul who gave India the much-needed respite when he castled Buttler with a full in-ducker. Soon after, Deepak Chahar, the debutant, smartly foxed Roy with a fast off-cutter, which the opener could only get a faint tickle on and MS Dhoni took the first of his five world-record catches behind the stumps. Despite the twin blows, England were running away with the game at the half-way mark with 111 runs already on the board.
After being carted for 22 runs in his opening over, Pandya made a strong comeback to engineer a middle order collapse. His next three overs tallied for only 18 runs and accounted for the wickets of Eoin Morgan (6), Alex Hales (30), Jonny Bairstow (25) and Ben Stokes (14) - all dangerous players. He used the cutters and short deliveries to good effect to record career-best figures of 4 for 38. Yuzvendra Chahal went wicketless but bowled nagging lines to return with an impressive 0 for 30 in four overs. The blistering start was nullified and England could only gather 87 runs in the final 10 overs. India went into the break with momentum on their side while England rued the possibility of not getting to 220.
Eventually it came down to the power India had in their ranks to exploit the short boundaries. Rohit, who usually takes a while to get going into his innings, recognised the need to press the accelerator from the word go even as he lost his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan (5) cheaply for the third time in the series. He began his innings with a nonchalant flick which sailed way over the deep mid-wicket fence off David Wiley in the first over. He was lethal on anything pitched short and repeated swivelled on the back foot to find the fence behind square on the leg side.
KL Rahul too found his zone and struck two sixes during his 10-ball 19 before he was caught acrobatically by Chris Jordan while running back from mid-on. Kohli joined hands with his deputy to shepherd the chase forward. Together with Rohit, the Indian captain added 89 runs off only 57 balls for the third wicket to shut the doors on England. Adil Rashid, England's lone spinner, resorted in keeping it short of length and both Kohli and Rohit employed the cut shot to find boundaries behind point. Jordan finally got the breakthrough when he caught Kohli brilliantly off his own bowling but the game was all but out of their grasp.
Pandya struck the ball cleanly and contributed 33 out of the 50-run stand for the fifth wicket with Rohit, who remained unbeaten on 100. His 56-ball masterclass was punctuated with 11 fours and five sixes. During the chase, India very hardly challenged. Both teams will be tipped again on Thursday for the first of the three One-Day International series. If this series served as an appetiser, there is plenty of quality cricket to follow in this long tour.