Cricket

India vs England: Calm Rohit Sharma times his century perfectly to help visitors clinch T20I series

  • Vedam Jaishankar
  • July 9th, 2018
  • 12:50:01 IST

Bowlers worldwide would be hoping that Kookaburra, which is to unveil its new T20-specific cricket ball designed to restore the balance between bat and ball, could be launched before the scheduled year which is 2020.

Certainly, those hopes would have intensified after the run-feast on a flat track at Bristol that produced a humongous 399 runs for the loss of 12 wickets in a mere 38.4 overs on Sunday. The tally of runs was mind-blowing, with the experience being heightened by the sublime batsmanship of Rohit Sharma.

Rohit Sharma celebrates after reaching his century in the 3rd T20I against England. AFP

Rohit Sharma celebrates after reaching his century in the 3rd T20I against England. AFP

Consequently, the series decider was a veritable riot of runs, the likes of which has not been seen in a T20I encounter for a long time. Rohit dived headlong into the riotous party by smashing a record-equalling third T20I hundred. Till he reached the milestone, only Kiwi Colin Munro had made as many hundreds in the shortest format.

Rohit’s unbeaten century was timely in more ways than one. The Mumbai batsman had a poor series in South Africa and was seen as doing little justice to his enormous talent in T20Is. India too badly needed one of its top-order batsmen to step up and play deep into the innings if they were to successfully chase down a huge target of 199.

Strangely, England offered three different types of pitches for the T20Is. The first game at Manchester was played on a turning track where Kuldeep Yadav’s haul of five wickets floored them. The second at Cardiff was on a bouncy track and India not only lost that game but were seen to be struggling to put together 148 runs while batting first. At Bristol, the pitch on offer was a flat, batting track which drove every bowler to desperation.

It was as though the hosts were sussing out the Indian team’s strengths and weaknesses in these varieties of pitches.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, India wisely refrained from exposing left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep on a ground which had short straight boundaries and hence not suitable to his style of bowling. They preferred to go instead with pacers who could keep the batsmen mostly pegged to the back-foot.

England too adopted a similar strategy, except that Rohit and later skipper Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya were up to creaming the attack.

Rohit took his time in settling down and gauging the pace of the pitch, even as he took a toll of deliveries in his arc.

“I knew that I had to just hang in there and stay calm,” he said at the post-match presentation ceremony after India had wrapped up the series 2-1. Importantly he said that his “aim was to maintain the shape” while going for big shots. This was crucial as it would help him time his strokes and not get into a tangle where he could mishit.

His calm, relaxed demeanor helped him go after the bowling in trademark languid style which turned out to be a feast for sore eyes. He repeatedly pulled the short-pitched deliveries with rare precision, while the pick-up shots into the deep left the team’s supporters in raptures. Rohit was on song.

Significantly his unbeaten 100 (56b, 11x4, 5x6) took him to another milestone — being only the second Indian after Kohli to get to 2,000 runs in T20Is. During the course of the sparkling century, Rohit pieced together three back-to-back partnerships which shattered any hopes England might have entertained of defending the target.

The 41-run stand with KL Rahul (19) came at a brisk pace and off just 19 power-play deliveries. This set the tone for a decisive match-winning 89-run partnership with Kohli (43; 29b, 2x4, 2x6) off 57 deliveries. The icing on the cake was the unbroken 50-run stand off 23 deliveries with Pandya (33 not out; 14 b, 4x4, 2x6).

Rightly so, Rohit was the common thread running through these partnerships. The impact of these was so crushing that acknowledged finisher MS Dhoni and the aggressive Suresh Raina were not even called upon to add muscle to the effort.

Significantly, Rohit’s timely pyrotechnics enabled India to score a crucial overseas win. They have achieved wins over three cricketing powerhouses, away from home in T20Is. They won 3-0 against Australia in 2016, 2-1 against South Africa at the start of the year and now 2-1 against England.

The wins, along with those on the way against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Ireland was reminiscent of the winning ways of the old, all-powerful West Indies team of the 1980s, who won everywhere.

For Rohit, the century has come at a critical stage in his career. It has rekindled belief in his ability to perform, especially against big opponents, in T20Is and thereby given him a fresh lease of life in the shortest format. He has warmed up well for the ODI series and this spells ominous signs for England.

Updated Date: July 09, 2018 12:50:01 IST

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