Shreyas Iyer’s 67 in vain as India could only get to 124 for 7 in the first T20I, with England sealing an eight-wicket win
England 130 for 2 (Roy 49, Buttler 28, Sundar 1-18) beat India 124 for 7 (Iyer 67, Pant 21, Archer 3-23, Rashid 1-14) by eight wickets
Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Jordan ambushed India with blistering pace and trampoline bounce, taking the two-paced Ahmedabad track out of the equation and reminding the world why they are the No.1-ranked T20I side. England’s irresistible attack consigned India to 22 for 3 in first six overs – their second-lowest powerplay score in T20Is – and although Shreyas Iyer scored 67 off 48 balls, the hosts could muster only 124 for 7.
In stark contrast, England stormed to 50 for 0 in their powerplay in the chase, with Jason Roy and Jos Buttler repeatedly mowing India’s depleted attack to the boundary. India captain Virat Kohli had promised a similar gung-ho approach from their top order on the eve of the series opener, but while the intent was there, the execution was awry.
KL Rahul dragged a 141kph dart from Archer back onto his stumps for 1 and then Kohli backed away first ball to Adil Rashid, who had taken the new ball for England, swishing him in the air to mid-off for a duck. When Wood blasted out Shikhar Dhawan with a 148kph thunderbolt, India were 20 for 3 in the fifth over, with their top three having managed a mere five runs together.
Iyer tried his best to give India’s bowlers something to defend, but that soon became next to nothing once Roy and Buttler got cracking. Both the England openers fell lbw to spin, but Dawid Malan and Johnny Bairstow took them home by batting at a similar high gear and throwing down the gauntlet to India for the rest of the series.
England’s fast men crank it up
While India had packed their attack with three spinners – legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal and fingerspin-bowling allrounders Axar Patel and Washington Sundar – England went the other way, recalling Wood, at the expense of allrounder Tom Curran, and pairing him up with Archer and Jordan.
It was Archer who set the tone for England by removing Rahul and marking his return from an elbow injury with a second-ball strike. Like Rahul, Kohli and Dhawan, who was picked in place of the rested Rohit Sharma, looked hurried and were dismissed cheaply.
While Archer and Jordan regularly hit 140kph, it was Wood who set the pulse racing by breaching 150kph. After bowling a sharp eight-over burst in Galle, Wood was rested for the red-ball leg of the India tour. He came back with a sharper spell in Ahmedabad and at one point he had even prompted Eoin Morgan into deploying a short leg for him.
Quite fittingly, Wood capped his spell with a 149kph delivery that was just about diffused to third man. Archer returned at the death to get Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur off consecutive deliveries, but Sundar denied him a hat-trick.
Iyer steps up
The second delivery that Iyer faced summed up the challenge posed by the pitch: Jordan hit a hard length, but the ball stuck in the surface and forced him to spoon a checked drive in front of cover. After Rishabh Pant failed to clear the longer square boundary and holed out for 21 off 23 balls, Iyer simply saw off England’s main bowlers and set about repairing the innings.
Iyer smartly used the pace and bounce of England’s bowlers to his advantage, picking 36 of his 67 runs square of the wicket or behind square. He did go after the change bowlers – Sam Curran and Ben Stokes – and ultimately holed out in the last over of India’s innings with Dawid Malan pulling off a blinding catch at deep square leg. Barring Iyer, Pant was the only Indian batsman to cross 20.
Roy, Buttler…and sustained hitting
India matched Chahal up with Roy early in the chase in an attempt to exploit the opener’s perceived weakness against spin. However, Roy muscled the legspinner for six first ball and then crunched him behind point for another boundary. Buttler, too, joined the fun, dashing out of the crease and swiping Patel over midwicket for six.
All up, Roy took Chahal for 26 off 13 balls before the leggie pinned him in front. Sundar, who was held back until the 12th over, then trapped Buttler, but Malan and Bairstow rushed England to a 1-0 lead.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo