Kuldeep Yadav’s left-arm wrist-spin shown an indecipherable code for England’s batsmen as a sea of blue at Old Trafford roared India on to victory in the first of three Twenty20s between these two sides.
Indeed the impact of England’s footballers simultaneously taking on Colombia in Moscow was barely felt here. The bulk of the 23,000 to pitch up were cheering for Virat Kohli’s newly arrived tourists, who repaid the cacophonous support by chasing down 160 for a comfortable eight-wicket win and a significant statement of intent.
KL Rahul’s unbeaten 101 from 54 balls may have ferociously knocked off the target with 10 balls to spare in a glare of 10 fours and five sixes but there was no question where the difference lay; Kuldeep’s earlier figures of five for 24 had reduced a confused England to 159 for eight from their 20 overs. Little wonder Kohli is so pleased with the current heatwave.
“Kuldeep’s a very good bowler,” said Eoin Morgan, one of three victims in four balls to the left-armer’s predominantly googly-based wizardry. “He’s obviously going to be a big threat. Everything seemed to happen very quickly, which is a credit to the bowling. It’s something we’ll assess before the next game and hopefully play it better.”
England’s meagre total, after Morgan had seen a seventh successive toss go against him this home summer, was propped up by the latest masterclass from Jos Buttler – a 46-ball 69 made up of sumptuous pulls and wristy drives – but his was essentially a lone hand.
They had started at a decent lick, with Jason Roy’s frenetic 30, but his demise – chopping Umesh Yadav on to the stumps via the pull shot that had met fresh air a couple of times previously – brought Alex Hales to the crease for what proved a torturous 18-ball eight.
While Buttler had taken Hardik Pandya for 18 off the 11th over to put England on 95 for one, the inability of Hales to get going was applying drag before he fell to Kuldeep, bowled trying to sweep what would have been his first boundary. With Ben Stokes eyeing Sunday for a return from injury, Hales needs a score in Cardiff on Friday.
Kuldeep’s true impact would come in his next over – the innings-changing 14th – when he ripped out the guts with three victims in four balls. Morgan was caught in the deep off a slog sweep and then both Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root were stumped for golden ducks. When MS Dhoni whipped off the bails for the latter, having fumbled initially, it was a record 33rd such dismissal for their former T20 captain.
Kohli decided to keep Kuldeep’s final over back but the left-armer returned for the 18th and, with Moeen Ali having already gone for six when slicing Pandya to cover, he wrapped up his maiden five-wicket haul when Kohli held Buttler at long-on. It should have come two balls sooner too, after Rahul had given the Englishman a life.
While Chris Jordan was the third man out first ball – caught and bowled by Umesh off his pad – David Willey was in no mood to go down with a whimper, blasting 29 from 15 balls, adding a touch of fight in some verbals with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and an early breakthrough in the chase when Shikhar Dhawan played on in the first over.
Willey should have had a second, too, with Roy putting down Rahul on 17 at backward point. But from there the No 3 took full control, putting on 123 in no time with the more sedate Rohit Sharma to break the back of the chase in a flurry of long-levered blows.
Sharma’s departure with 30 runs required gave the partisan crowd a final chance to chant Kohli’s name and, after Rahul completed his second international century in this format, the Indian captain smoked Moeen over long-on to wrap up the one-sided win.