Irfan Pathan leaves the ground as England team celebrates his dismissal during the ICC T20 World Cup cricket match between India and England at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. HT Photo/Ajay Aggarwal
India and England tested their firepower one last time on Sunday before the big battles begin in the World Twenty20, to contrasting results.
At the end of it, the Men in Blue came out with all guns blazing, with the bat and ball, while England will have to spend the next few days recalibrating their arsenal before the defending champions enter the Super Eights. With a 90-run win, India topped their group and the comprehensive manner of their win should help boost their confidence.
It's amazing how quickly things can change in this format. Coming into the inconsequential group tie, England had everything going for them. The results from their games after arriving in Sri Lanka showed they had settled into a perfect combination, having won all their warm-up and the first league match convincingly.
India, on the other hand, had looked in some disarray. But after Sunday's final league game, by all indications, all pieces of the puzzle seemed to have fallen into place for the blue brigade. And, it has come at the expense Stuart Broad's men.
From the pattern of play, nothing would have hurt England more than their batsmen's abject show against spin. A masterly performance by Harbhajan Singh & Co has again sowed the seeds of doubt in England batsmen's minds; and confronted with subcontinent conditions, it can wreak havoc with your confidence.
With nothing at stake, Dhoni shed his favoured seven-four combination by playing an extra fifth bowler. And the comprehensive win should help the skipper take the big call in deciding what will be the ideal balance for his team in this tournament and format.
It was a game where whatever Dhoni tried clicked. Most importantly, the success of Harbhajan and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla means he has solid back-up resources. In fact, with main strike bowler R Ashwin in fine form, it's become case of embarrassment of riches for the Indian skipper.
The Englishmen found the inspired Harbhajan almost unplayable. He kept them guessing by mixing his deliveries well, and with Chawla proving to be an ideal foil, they cut through the middle-order.
In a highly impressive showing, the bowler, back in the mix after over a year, finished with brilliant figures of 4-2-12-4, varying the pace and flight to keep the batsmen guessing. Chawla returned figures of 4-1-13-2.
Put into bat, India showed they bat better with extra responsibility. Playing a batsman-short, Gautam Gambhir (45 runs), Virat Kohli (40) and Rohit Sharma (55 not out) all came good to take the team to a solid 170 for four.
The feature of their batting was the way they took on the short bowling. Targeted with bouncers, all three took the pacers head-on. The gameplan was simple: keep wickets in hand and then attack.
The final assault worked with 51 runs coming in the last four overs. It remains to be seen whether India play with the same flair when the pressure is on. If they can do that, they will be the team to watch out for.