Updated: March 19, 2021 12:45:16 pm
Suryakumar Yadav from Chembur hit his first ball in international cricket for a six, a one-leg pull that was all grace and timing. With wickets falling at the other end, his bold and elegant half-century gave India’s innings the required momentum. Then came Shreyas Iyer from Lower Parel, taking care of the middle and death overs. In a win-or-bust game, India’s batting royalty, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, fell cheaply and the innings desperately needed some spice. The duo provided the Mumbai masala, as India clung onto the match by eight runs.
Another player who plays for Mumbai, Shardul Thakur, who is from Palghar, then dismissed Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan, besides holding his nerves in a nervy last over. Stokes was turning the game around with the bat. But Thakur’s off-cutter did the trick, as he mistimed the ball to long-off. Another cutter – slower deliveries worked well for the Indian pacers at the death – terminated Eoin Morgan. The game changed on its head. Jofra Archer’s late freewheeling could only delay the inevitable.
There was adequate support from Hardik Pandya and Co, too. Pandya was thrifty, his four overs costing just 16 runs, besides two wickets. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was crafty while Rahul Chahar, in for Yuzvendra Chahal, braved the heavy dew and snared two wickets. Jonny Bairstow’s scalp, after conceding a four and a six, spoke volumes for the leggie’s inner steel.
But the night belonged to Yadav—his 57 off 31 balls, before being out to a controversial decision, set up the match. Iyer made 37 off 18 deliveries. Together they took the hosts to 185/8, a par score on a benign surface. England were eventually done in by the scoreboard pressure, Jofra Archer’s late blast notwithstanding.
Intent from outset
Much to their captain’s delight, India showed intent from the outset. A team that has Washington Sundar batting at No. 9, should throw caution to the wind for fun in this format. India usually prefer slow burn. On Thursday, however, Rohit started with a six off Adil Rashid. But a leg-cutter from Archer had him out caught and bowled. Then strode in Yadav for his moment of reckoning.
Credit to the Chetan Sharma-led selection committee to finally consider the 30-year-old for international cricket. When the team was announced for the series against England, Yadav had shed a tear. He was Mumbai Indians’ batting x-factor in the last year’s IPL – 480 runs at a strike-rate of 145. The previous year saw him score 424 runs at a strike-rate of 130-plus. The India call-up came a little late, but better late than never.
Archer welcomed him with a short delivery. Yadav went deep into the crease and inside the line to hit it over fine leg for a six. Kapil Dev’s ‘Nataraja’ pull was served in a millennial package and the great man would have enjoyed it if he were at the ground. This match was played on the same pitch that had hosted the T20I series opener, with a little less grass cover but with added firmness. England’s pace duo, Archer and Mark Wood, had softened up India’s batting with brute pace in the first match. They did it in the last game as well. Yadav stood tall to imperiously hit a 149kph delivery from Wood through covers for a four. That was some way to announce himself in international cricket.
Strokes flew in a flurry from his bat. After taking a boundary off Chris Jordan, Yadav turned his attention to Rashid. A sweep for a four followed by an inside-out six over extra cover; the batsman, in fact, was dictating the leg-spinner. KL Rahul unnecessarily tried to force the pace when he had the chance to play himself in. Kohli was stumped off a perfect googly from Rashid and Yadav needed to embrace pragmatism for the next few overs, which he did.
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 18, 2021
His dismissal, though, had a touch of controversy. A top edge off Sam Curran went to Dawid Malan in the deep who took the catch diving forward. From certain angles, it felt like the ball had kissed the floor, but the soft signal from on-field umpire KN Ananthapadmanabhan was out, and without any conclusive evidence, TV umpire Virender Sharma could not overturn the decision.
Spare a thought for Iyer, probably batting a little too deep at No. 6 despite being in excellent nick. The responsibility fell on him after Yadav left. Rishabh Pant, too, got out when he looked set for back-end fireworks. Iyer’s blitz turned out to be the difference. His ability to pick the gaps was exceptional, while His inside-out six over deep cover off a Jordan delivery was gorgeous. Iyer’s presence makes the Indian middle-order meaty while Yadav in this form would bolster the top order.
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