In the final game of the T20I series versus England, India batted for most of the innings like it was a T20, for the first time in the series which allowed them to post a score in excess of 200 runs. Even as England kept themselves in the chase for the better part of it, the pressure of the required run rate and middle-overs slow down of Joe Root triggered a collapse, for India to seal the series 2-1 and send the visitors home empty handed.
There was rejigging of the Indian batting order, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni slotted in at four and Rishabh Pant handed the India cap – exactly a year since he scored the fastest fifty in the Under-19 World cup off just 18 balls – taking the place of homeboy Manish Pandey.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore has played host to successful tall run chases in T20s over the years and the winner of the toss was going to get a bit of advantage in wanting to chase. England for the third time in the series, won the toss and decided to field first. Indian captain Virat Kohli – easily the most consistent Indian batsman in the last year and a half – perished on the 7th ball of the innings trying to go for a nonexistent single. Although the capacity crowd was shocked in to silence to see their favorite player go, it really wasn't a bad development for India.
It's unpopular to doubt Kohli's prowess with the bat, and rightly so in Tests and ODIs where his methods have worked superbly. But in T20s, as good as he has been in the last couple of seasons, his inability to clear the boundary at will dents the progress of the innings. He is so good that he could still average 50 in T20Is but the longer he stays in the middle, it is actually counterproductive for his team as the power hitters do not get as many deliveries to face.
The home of the Royal Challengers has yielded more than a dozen scores in excess of 200 runs in IPL matches, due to its true wicket, elevation and short boundaries. The history of the ground and England's hitting depth meant India needed a substantial first innings score but they were off to poor start with only 8 runs in the first two overs. The following table shows the overall run rate in each of the 20 overs for all IPL and T20I matches played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium (Average 1st innings score: 173.1) and India's progress over-by-over in the third T20I.
Given the average score, India needed to score at 9 runs per over to post a challenging total. As can be seen, they scored 9 or more in 13 of the 20 overs. The lulls in scoring were basically in the first two overs and from overs 8-11 when India lost KL Rahul's wicket and spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid exerted a bit of control. Rahul was bowled while trying to swipe across the line, and the on-air commentators admonished for a “poor shot”. On the contrary, it was the right play. He was on 22 off 17 balls and needed to push his scoring rate, and not let Raina alone handle all the burden, or get dismissed in the process without wasting any more precious deliveries. Four balls after depositing an Ali delivery on the stadium's roof, he was despatched by Stokes looking to hit a boundary.
Suresh Raina has been a proven performer in this format for India as well as in the IPL for many years. He strikes at the rate of 135 runs per 100 balls, and faces roughly 24 balls per dismissal while sending at least 4 four of them to the boundary. It is in this ability to be impactful for a short span, and not consuming too many deliveries thereby setting the stage for the meat of the middle order that he has been outstanding throughout his T20 career. He stuck around longer than usual at Bangalore, forging two outstanding partnerships with Rahul (61 off 37) and Dhoni (55 off 37).
The elevation of Dhoni to number four not only provided sufficient time for him get set but also meant Yuvraj Singh did not have to face a single delivery from the spinners who have always troubled him. Raina pushed the scoring rate early with sixes and perished in getting the innings back on track in the 14th over.
That opened the door for the match-turning partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni. Yuvraj who had struggled in the previous two matches (16 off 25) got off to a slow start here as well (4 off 4) but took Chris Jordan apart to the tune of 23 runs in the 18th over with three powerfully hit sixes and a four. The pair put on 57 runs in just 28 deliveries that allowed India to eventually close the innings at 202.
India scored only 78 runs in the first 10 overs, but plundered 124 in the next ten, including 49 off the last three overs. It was a very well executed T20 innings orchestrated mainly by the three of the most experienced Indian limited overs batsmen, Raina, Dhoni and Yuvraj, who understood the roles and more importantly, the rhythm of a T20 innings.