"It was a complete game for us. Totally outplayed the opposition."
Rohit Sharma was dominating. Virat Kohli was classy. Suryakumar Yadav was innovative. Hardik Pandya was brutal. And, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was wily.
As Indian captain mentioned in the post-match presentation ceremony, India were completely ruthless in the fifth and final T20I, hammering England by 36 runs to win the series 3-2 in Ahmedabad on Saturday (March 20). It was a complete team performance from the hosts, with Kohli and Rohit leading from the front. India have now won six T20I series in a row & are unbeaten in the last eight series.
Asked to bat, Kohli (52-ball 80*) and Rohit (34-ball 64) put on 94 runs for the opening wicket and got India off to a superb start. Suryakumar (17-ball 32) and Pandya (17-ball 39*) chipped in with fiery cameos as India plundered 224/2 in 20 overs - their highest total against England and fourth-best overall. In reply, Dawid Malan (46-ball 68) and Jos Buttler (34-ball 52) added 130 runs for the second wicket and kept England in the game till the 12th over, but the visitors lost the plot thereafter, courtesy Bhuvneshwar (2/15) and Shardul Thakur (3/45).
ROHIT, SURYAKUMAR DOMINATE THE FIRST HALF...
The Indian team management finally ran out of patience and dropped out-of-form KL Rahul from the playing XI. Kohli, who has been very successful as an opener in IPL, opened the innings along with Rohit and that once again allowed England skipper Eoin Morgan to use Adil Rashid in the powerplay. The ace legspinner troubled both Kohli and Rohit before the latter whacked him for a maximum over deep mid-wicket to break the shackles. The real battle was always going to be against Jofra Archer and Mark Wood but the two openers looked quite comfortable against them.
Kohli announced his arrival with an authoritative cover drive off Archer before Rohit slammed Wood for two boundaries straight down the ground. Having added just 30 runs combined in the first four T20Is, the Indian openers had struggled in this series, but that was not the case tonight. The surface was superb for batting and Rohit and Kohli made the most of it in the first six overs. Pace was never going to trouble Kohli and the skipper brought up the 50-run stand by clobbering Wood for his first maximum of the match. Meanwhile, Rohit was even more aggressive as India raced to 60 for no loss by the end of powerplay - their best in this series.
Rohit, in particular, didn't allow any bowler to settle in and kept the boundaries flowing. The opener from Mumbai was in phenomenal touch and Kohli made sure Rohit had most of the strike in the first half of the innings. The likes of Chris Jordan and Sam Curran too felt the wrath of Rohit as the Indian vice-captain brought up his fifty off 30 deliveries with an outstanding pick-up shot. Rohit was running away with the game and that's when Morgan got Ben Stokes into the attack. The ace all-rounder was smoked for a four and a six but managed to knock over Rohit with a change-up delivery.
Suryakumar walked into bat at No. 3 and got off the mark with a "boring" single, but crafted Rashid for consecutive sixes off his next two deliveries. Suryakumar took over once his Mumbai Indians skipper departed and played shots all around the wicket. The 30-year-old easily overshadowed Kohli in the space of two overs as he smashed Jordan for three successive boundaries. Kohli too joined the party and started scoring a lot more freely. The batting maestro played his signature shots through deep mid-wicket, which only added to England's misery.
The visitors were running out of options and they needed something special to get rid of Suryakumar and they got that from Jordan, not with the ball in hand though. Suryakumar scored 32 off 17 deliveries before Jordan took a stunning catch to send him back in the hut. The right-handed batsman tried to loft Rashid over deep-wicket but Jordan sprinted to his right and plucked it out of thin air with his right hand, only to toss it back to Jason Roy as his momentum pushed him beyond the boundary.
... BEFORE KOHLI, PANDYA TAKE OVER
Kohli got to his fifty off 36 deliveries and the onus was now on him to give India a rapid finish. Hardik Pandya was promoted to No. 4 and the hard-hitting batsman looked in some mood tonight. The England bowlers tried attacking Pandya with short deliveries but the 27-year-old had none of it. Pandya kept finding boundaries at regular intervals, while Kohli played with the field by simply playing those classical shots.
Wood was hammered for 53 runs in his four overs, while the other bowlers too took a severe beating. There's a reason why Pandya is one of the finest strikers in world cricket, as he blasted Jordan for back-to-back sixes in the penultimate over. Kohli too kept doing his thing and India smoked 67 runs in the last five overs.
BHUVNESHWAR TOO GOOD FOR ENGLAND
England had to go hard from the word go but suffered a big blow in the very first over. Jason Roy tried to take the attack to Bhuvneshwar but ended up getting knocked over for a duck. Coming in at No. 3, Malan was under some pressure but the top-ranked T20I batsman commenced his innings on a positive note by smacking Pandya for two fours and a six in the second over. Having scored 80 runs in 77 deliveries in the first four encounters, Malan batted with a lot of intent in this innings, while Buttler too got into the act once Washington Sundar came into the attack.
The wicketkeeper-batsman struck Washington for two fours in his first over before greeting Thakur with a massive six over deep mid-wicket. India played T Natarajan in place of Rahul, moving away from their five-bowler strategy. The visiting side raced to 62/1 at the end of six as Malan and Buttler kept the scoring rate over 10. Natarajan and Thakur sent out a couple of tight overs but Rahul Chahar released all the pressure as Buttler hit him for three sixes in his first two overs.
Meanwhile, Malan pounced on every scoring opportunity and brought up his first fifty of the series off 33 deliveries. The elegant left-hander crafted Natarajan for two boundaries and a six in the 11th over as the left-arm seamer kept bowling full-length deliveries. The momentum was with England and with a bit of dew, it was their game to lose. The surface was flat and Buttler too got to his half-century off 30 balls.
India needed a couple of tight overs to take the control back and they got that from Chahar and Bhuvneshwar. The legspinner only conceded seven runs in the 12th over and then Kohli brought Bhuvneshwar back into the attack. The senior seamer did the job for his team as he had Buttler (34-ball 52) caught at long-off and broke the partnership. The pressure started to build on England as they could only manage 22 runs from over 12 to 15. The Indian seamers bowled lots of cutters and kept the England batsmen guessing. Jonny Bairstow (7) couldn't contribute much as he fell to Thakur.
Thakur, who turned the game in India's favour by picking up two wickets in an over in the fourth T20I, did the same tonight as he also knocked over Malan in the 15th over. Eoin Morgan (1) perished in the next over and the game felt dead from thereon.