Rahul, Shami tick the form box in India's warm-up win over England
- Skipper Virat Kohli anointed KL Rahul as opener in the T20 World Cup and he showed why, hosts India easing to victory in the warm-up game in Dubai.
Regrouping as a team, India may have wanted a hard preparatory outing after the hustle and bustle of IPL, and England, a team full of power-packed white-ball batters, proved solid opponents who posted 188 runs. India though chased the target in 19 overs.
England skipper Eoin Morgan, woefully short of runs and confidence despite taking KKR to the IPL final, took a break while Virat Kohli used the opportunity at the toss to kill the suspense over his batting position, declaring that he would bat at No.3 in the World Cup. If Kohli is to be believed, India have already chosen their starting eleven for the opening game against Pakistan on Sunday. Last month, he had made it known to the world that the World Cup will be his last as India’s T20 skipper and that he would no longer captain RCB. But with another trying innings in the middle overs in Dubai on Monday, Kohli is still searching for batting fluency.
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SHAMI SHINES, BHUVI STRUGGLES
With deceit and quest for wickets becoming secondary in warm-up matches, India utilised the powerplay to try out all their pace combinations. Taking a cue from IPL where pace off deliveries were highly effective, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah tried a fair share of slower balls in their spells. One such delivery with an off-spinner’s action ended up rattling Jos Buttler’s stumps. That Shami got England’s captain of the day out after receiving some stick from him earlier in the over would have prepped him up nicely. While Shami finished with 3/40, Bumrah largely bowled within himself. It would particularly worry the Indian team that Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a forgettable outing, finishing 0/54 with 33 runs coming in his two overs at the death.
It will be interesting to see if Ravichandran Ashwin finds game time and how much as Varun Chakravarthy with his mystery spin and Ravindra Jadeja with his all-round skills are expected to start. But the experienced operator made it clear that he wouldn’t stop experimenting in his latest white-ball avatar. He gave the ball air in his first over, bowled flatter in the second and bowled a mix of leg-spinners and carrom balls to the right-handers in his third. Ashwin also used the crease to the maximum, and although he went wicketless, stuck to his new mantra of focusing on keeping the batters dry. He finished as the most economical bowler of the day (4-0-23).
This was Rahul Chahar’s first outing after being dropping by Mumbai Indians. While he would have taken some confidence keeping Dawid Malan honest and dismissing him with a googly, he ran in to Liam Livingstone, who was in the mood and took him to the cleaners. Being chosen for his high air-speed, Chahar still appears well short of his best, finishing with figures of 1-43.
KL RAHUL SIMPLY SUBLIMEKohli pretty much made it clear that Rohit Sharma’s opening partner would be KL Rahul. “Things were different before IPL, now it's difficult to look beyond Rahul at the top of the order,” he said. If there still remained any doubts, Rahul lay them to rest with another sparkling display of ball-striking. With six 4s and three 6s, each stroke a unique cocktail of power and beauty, Rahul punished the English bowling almost the same way as he did the hapless CSK bowlers in Punjab King’s last IPL game. Rahul’s 51 coming at a strike rate of 212 makes him the batter in the hottest form going into the World Cup.
Ishan Kishan was Rahul’s opening partner and made sure India did not lose momentum once Kohli came to the crease and decided to play himself in. While the captain would be disappointed falling to Livingstone’s flight on 11, Kishan kept going after the spinners and was particularly severe against Adil Rashid. He retired after a 46-ball 70 to allow batting time to Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, who closed the game.