No Kuldeep Yadav, no problem: Indian cricket’s bowling versatility does it
Their main spin weapon was dropped; a debutant pacer, the other playing in only his second international. Add to it, the County Ground in Bristol, with short straight boundaries, had laid out a flat track. Yet, the Indian bowling unit delivered in the crunch Twenty20 game to seal the series 2-1.
Before the series, India lost their main bowling weapon, Jasprit Bumrah, due to injury. In the series decider, they were without Bhuvneshwar Kumar, superb in the second T20I at Cardiff where he conceded just seven runs in his first three overs but unfit. And they opted to go without chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav due to the conditions and field dimensions.
That the Indian attack still came good in the crucial game against one of the strongest batting sides in the world, on their turf, underlines the confidence and depth of bowlers at Virat Kohli’s disposal.
Deepak Chahar, making his debut, settled down after the first over when Jos Buttler targetted him. Siddarth Kaul, playing only his second T20I, was given the final over. The Punjab bowler (2/35) held his own, providing the opening breakthrough, sticking to what he does in the IPL, pitching the ball up and deceiving the batsman, Buttler, with change of pace.
In batting, there is not much to choose between the sides except for the style of play. It’s the bowling which has been the difference.
After a barrage of sixes and fours, the hosts were looking good for a total of 225-plus when Hardik Pandya (4/38) stunningly pulled things back.
After Kuldeep claimed five wickets to wreck the England innings at Manchester, it was unthinkable India could do without him in this series. He had provided them the psychological edge. But it is now clear that India want to use him as their main weapon and will protect him against any disadvantage due to the ground or pitch conditions.
In comparison, England have serious limitations in their attack. It lacks quality and variety. David Willey, Jack Ball, Liam Plunkett and Chris Jordan will need extra bounce on the wickets or they will be easy meat. At Cardiff, the playing surface suited them and they were effective in checking the Indian line-up.
Contrast in bowling units
But they have not exhibited the attacking skills, control and variations needed on flatter tracks. In tougher conditions, like at Bristol, the only way to stop a strong batting line-up is by getting wickets. Pandya picked four, Kaul two, Chahar and Umesh Yadav one each. It was the difference between the two teams.
It is where India will also have the edge in the one-day series.
The lack of spin options is glaring too. On flatter wickets, the fastish off-spin of Moeen Ali is easy to score off, and England have been forced not to adopt the tactic of taking on India with spin after just one game, relying only on Adil Rashid.
“India stuck to banging in a hard length … until they went to yorkers towards the end. That’s what we tried to replicate, because on this ground taking wickets is a priority,” said England captain Eoin Morgan, frustrated at his bowlers’ performance.
“We watched them do it after we couldn’t, and it emphasises that we need to be better at either putting somebody off their length or hitting length. I was just chopping and changing trying to find a wicket, trying to be as unpredictable as we could – and it didn’t work.”
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- It was a bit of a surprise when England decided to play only three specialist bowlers in the fourth Test, picking batsman Dan Lawrence in place Jofra Archer who had played in the day-night Test but as it turned out Archer was forced to sit due to an injury.