New Delhi: After an unconvincing start to the tournament that featured a five-run loss to Ireland, England saved their best performance of the Men’s T20 World Cup for Thursday’s semifinal against the top-ranked T20 international team, India, at the Adelaide Oval in Australia.
Led by an unbeaten opening partnership between Alex Hales and captain Jos Buttler, England chased down India’s total of 168 by 10 wickets with 4 overs to spare as a tournament campaign that began with 4 wins out 5 for India went up in flames.
2010 T20 World Cup winners England will now travel to Melbourne to face 2009 T20 World Cup winners Pakistan, who had beaten New Zealand Wednesday at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in a repeat of the 1992 ODI World Cup final. The victor of Sunday’s final will thus have two T20 world titles to their name, equalling the West Indies’ record.
Select members of India’s squad, on the other hand, will travel to New Zealand for a white-ball tour featuring three T20I matches, followed by three ODIs that form part of the Super League qualification cycle for next year’s ODI World Cup.
ThePrint takes a look at some salient talking points from England’s resounding victory at the Adelaide Oval.
Jos Buttler and Alex Hales make a mockery of India’s approach to top order batting
The primary lesson India should take away from this game is not their bowlers’ listless response to aggressive batting, nor is it their lackadaisical fielding in the second innings. Rather, their mindset towards batting on largely favourable pitches with short square boundaries like the Adelaide Oval was shown to be outdated. Rather, England openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales provided India with basic pointers on how to bat in the powerplay and the middle overs. Once it was clear that the England bowlers couldn’t find much swing and seam movement on the Adelaide pitch in the first innings. Buttler and Hales took the attack to India’s new ball attack in the second innings, repeatedly showing immense footwork and ball-striking to punish any width on offer.
While the ball has been known to come onto the bat a tad easier under lights in Adelaide compared to earlier in the evening, this contrast in approaches between the conservative Indian top order to the exuberant English duo was evident from the outset. That India scored 62 in their first 10 overs while England scored 63 in the powerplay is a damning indictment of the snails’ pace scoring of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. By the time R Ashwin was brought on to make use of any purchase and drift off the pitch, the game was practically done and dusted.
India needs a personnel and tactical overhaul in T20Is going forward
The biggest culprits of India’s slow scoring rate at the top have been the openers, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma, with the former having repeatedly playing out maidens at the start of matches to get his eye in, while the latter has simply struggled to time the ball off the square. That Rahul was caught behind cheaply by Woakes in the second over while Rohit laboured to 27 off 28 balls summed up their inconsistent, indifferent displays over the course of the tournament.
However, from a tactical standpoint, a similarly big culprit in failing to maximise on balls faced during Thursday’s game is India’s star batsman himself, Virat Kohli. While he began his tournament with a bang, structuring one of the best knocks in Men’s T20 World Cup history, his batting today was more reminiscent of Ajinkya Rahane’s sluggish score of 40 off 35 balls when India last played a semifinal match in a T20 World Cup. Having hit just 4 fours and a six in a half-century that took 40 balls to complete, Kohli looked as scratchy as Rohit at first and all too often looked to simply knock the ball around for singles, instead of punishing anything that was too short or too wide.
With younger openers and top order batsmen waiting in the wings and boasting a wealth of IPL runs at higher strike rates, India would do well to overhaul their squad selections and batting tactics in the coming months, overseeing a period of transition.
Breaking down India’s disastrous powerplay with the ball
63 runs, 7 fours, 3 sixes, 0 wickets and 13 dot balls — these are the figures that define the powerplay in which Buttler and Hales made a seemingly tricky chase look like just another Thursday. While Buttler showed exemplary skills in employing drives against pace and Hales repeatedly used his signature sweep behind square leg, India’s bowlers were guilty of erring far too often and not putting any scoreboard pressure on the England openers.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh have largely been on top form in getting the new ball to swing both ways and draw batsmen into ill-advised outside edges or swipes across the line to be trapped LBW. However, with little swing or seam movement on offer today, Bhuvneshwar responded by bowling far too short and far too wide.
With Buttler and Hales choosing the correct moments to stay deep in their crease to target the square boundaries and coming down the pitch to target straighter boundaries, Bhuvneshwar’s lower pace and bounce turned out to be easy pickings for the English duo.
The problem only went from bad to worse when Rohit brought on Axar and Shami, as both their bowling trajectories and angles offered little to no pressure and clear boundary scoring options. The issue thus became one of adaptability — Adelaide is a venue with clear contrasts in ground dimensions and historically favours batsmen, Buttler and Hales saw opportunities and took them, while no Indian batsman save for Hardik Pandya was able to do the same to the English bowling attack that was missing its finest and fastest pacer. Instead, three of India’s batsmen fell to Chris Jordan, the top order could only score 41 runs from 7 overs of spin, and England outsmarted and outplayed India at a canter.
Also read: It takes mental strength, toughness to succeed here: KL Rahul on playing in Australia