India err, England sweep and pull
Hales, Buttler sweep Indian spinners away as England cruise into the T20 World Cup final.
This was, as Rahul Dravid put it, a defeat comprising five phases—three from India’s batting, two from England. Barring the phase India added 68 runs in the last five overs, Dravid felt they had lost all the other four. He isn’t off the mark. India’s batting was conservative, lacked intent, and looked absolutely rudderless in the first half of the innings. But the abject surrender of the bowlers was certainly new.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was taken out of the attack after he conceded 25 runs in two overs. Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami were given one over each when early wickets were necessary to check England’s run rate. The idea was to get the spinners as early as possible on what Dravid described as a ‘tacky’ Adelaide pitch. There was turn, some bounce too.
Last year, when England toured India, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin caused havoc in the last three Tests to win the series 3-1. But England had won the first Test in Chennai by 227 runs, largely because of Joe Root’s predilection for sweeping almost everything bowled at him. Formats change but that approach is still fetching runs, it seems.
If England were to prevail, India’s spinners had to be conquered. But with the longer straight boundaries, clearing the ropes would have been a concern. Out came the slog sweeps, pulls over midwicket and inside-out shots that are easier to clear the shorter square boundaries and can mess with any bowler’s lengths. Three sixes against spin stand out in England’s innings, all swept from outside off-stump. In the sixth over, Alex Hales got down on one knee to Axar Patel, picking him up from wide and depositing him over the boundary.
Next over, Hales swept again. This time Ashwin was bowling from the other end. Hitting him can be problematic because of the variations Ashwin has up his sleeve. But Hales again shuffled and swept Ashwin through backward square for a six. Twelfth over of the game, Hales dropped to his knee to sweep Ashwin again for a six. So emphatic was that hit that it prompted Ashwin to over-correct his length and bowl short and wide, but Hales pounced on that too, cutting him for a boundary.
Dravid admitted that the counterattack caught India on the wrong foot. “I think they just put the pressure on us, never let that go,” said Dravid after the match.
“Even when our spinners came on we thought we might be able to control the game. But they really counterattacked our spinners, as well, and put them under a lot of pressure.”
Contrast England with the way India’s batters were playing Adil Rashid and you would know why they are deserving winners. “For myself, I was sticking to my strengths, which were fuller, a bit slower. Probably a few googlies too because you want to mix it up,” said Rashid.
That is where India missed out on. They rarely bowled straight, got their lengths wrong, and offered little or no variation at all. But England kept the lid on with their spinners, especially Rashid.
"He bowls with so much variation, and he's got as much variety as anyone really,” said England captain Jos Buttler later. “I think he's been bowling really well actually. I think he may not have picked up the wickets that he usually does, and certainly, from the outside, some people said he wasn't bowling as well, but certainly, from within the group, you come and face him in the nets, he's been bowling well. Tonight, he was exceptional.”