13th over: India 63-4 (Iyer 34, Pandya 3) Chris Jordan is back, making you wonder how Morgan keeps track. And even Jordan is making chin music, smacking Pandya on the hand, like a Victorian teacher. Five off the over, which has been par so far. The big question is whether India can go to eight or nine for the final third of their innings.
12th over: India 58-4 (Iyer 31, Pandya 1) Yet another change as Stokes gives way to Wood. He has a slip, and rightly so. He bowls a snorter to Pandya, climbing from back-of-a-length and ending up in front of Jos Buttler’s eyes. Great stuff from Wood, who has one for 12 from three overs.
Here’s Julia on Twitter, quoting me back at myself. “‘The openers treat Rashid with respect. What do they think this is, a Test match?’ God bless the Over by Over, a lifeline for this Austrian who supports England and New Zealand and doesn’t get any cricket coverage here! #tailendersoftheworlduniteandtakeover.” Ah thanks.
11th over: India 55-4 (Iyer 29, Pandya 0) Morgan, spoilt for choice, opts to take Curran off after one over and bring back Rashid. Iyer plays a beautiful stroke, an inside-out drive, beating Malan at deep extra: that’s the textbook shot of the day, while Pant gets the prize for improv.
10th over: India 48-4 (Iyer 22, Pandya 0) So that’s the half-way stage and India are in some trouble. Are they, to paraphrase Iggy Pop, deeper than the s*** they’re in? We will see. Hardik Pandya’s a handy guy to have around for the last ten overs, and Iyer has been quietly effective.
Wicket! Pant c Bairstow b Stokes 21 (India 48-4)
Just when India were clawing their way back, Stokes strikes! Pant clipped him easily off his legs and gave a simple catch to Jonny Bairstow at deep square. That’s the wicket England really wanted, more even than Kohli. Game off again.
9th over: India 40-3 (Pant 20, Iyer 15) And here is Sam Curran. He’s got a new hairstyle, choppy rather than floppy, but he still has the unstoppable air of a cartoon mouse. His pace is officially known as waspish, and he even persuades Pant to duck a bouncer. Curran switches to round the wicket for the right-handed Iyer and curses himself as a freebie on the pads brings another leg glance for four. These two have already doubled the score.
8th over: India 34-3 (Pant 19, Iyer 10) Eoin Morgan is ringing the changes and now he turns to Ben Stokes, who concedes five singles. That means Sam Curran will be the fifth seamer. It could be worse: he could be his brother Tom, who has been dropped on his 25th birthday. Eoin Morgan has many qualities, but a soft heart isn’t one of them.
7th over: India 29-3 (Pant 17, Iyer 7) Shreyas Iyer, facing Wood, gets a tickle on another super-quick ball and picks up four. That’s the first boundary not scored by Pant, who has been on a different plane from his team-mates.
“Looks a little bit uneven, this pitch,” says Stuart Broad on commentary. He’s in Wimbledon, WFH. He’ll be doing the OBO next.
6th over: India 22-3 (Pant 16, Iyer 1) Chris Jordan replaces Archer and keeps up the pressure. India manage to get through a whole over, but their top three have had a shocker here: together they made 5 for 3 off 21 balls.
5th over: India 20-3 (Pant 15, Iyer 0) Rashid had come off, as he had to if Morgan was to have any options in the middle overs. On came Wood, and he touched 94mph with his third ball, whereas Archer was dawdling along at 90. Great stuff from both of them, and from Morgan.
“A decent start for England,” says Simon McMahon. “Socially distanced, outdoor drinks on me if there’s a super over.”
Wicket!! Dhawan b Wood 4 (India 20-3)
Another one! Mark Wood, like Archer, strikes in his first over, finding top speed and rattling the leg bail as Dhawan, under pressure after using up 12 balls, goes for a big swing.
4th over: India 18-2 (Dhawan 3, Pant 14) A single for Dhawan, the first run Archer has conceded. And then Pant pulls out the reverse, and it’s a six! Ramped over the keeper. “Jimmy Anderson is smirking somewhere,” says Nasser Hussain. Pant follows up with a leg glance for four, the right way round. Game on.
3rd over: India 7-2 (Dhawan 2, Pant 4) A boundary at last, as Rishabh Pant comes in and cuts Rashid for four as if there’s nothing amiss. But England are on top: their WinViz rating, 42 per cent at the start, has shot up to 62.
WICKET!! Kohli c Jordan b Rashid 0 (India 3-2)
Kohli’s gone too! Another step away, another mow, connecting this time but going straight to Chris Jordan at mid-off. That’s a goal for Rashid and an assist for Archer, who rattled Kohli’s hand and dented his pride. Oh India. Are you England in disguise?
2nd over: India 2-1 (Dhawan 1, Kohli 0) Archer finds some bounce and raps Kohli on the glove. Kohli tries to answer back by stepping away to leg and having a mow, but he misses it. That’s a wicket maiden and a dream start for England’s gun bowler.
Wicket!! Rahul b Archer 1 (India 2-1)
Jofra Archer strikes with his second ball! It’s a wide half-volley, but quick enough for KL Rahul to be late on it and perhaps jagging back, as he drags it on. First blood to England.
1st over: India 2-0 (Dhawan 1, Rahul 1) Rashid, who hasn’t bowled since December, does well to begin with two dots to the left-handed Dhawan. Then he drags one down, but gets away with it as Dhawan’s pull goes to the man at deep square. A single to Rahul too as the openers treat Rashid with respect. What do they think this is, a Test match?
India XI: lashings of spin, no Rohit
India see England’s one spinner and raise them. Twice over. There’s no Ashwin, but Axar Patel is back for more, so is Washington Sundar, and neither of them is the spin king in this squad – that’s Yuzvendra Chahal. So the two captains seem to have read the pitch quite differently. And the last time that happened on this ground, England took a hammering.
The good news for England is: no sign of Rohit Sharma, the batsman of the Test series, although the pundits are confused as they thought he was one of the names Kohli reeled off just now.
India 1 Rahul, 2 Dhawan, 3 Kohli (capt), 4 Iyer, 5 Pant (wkt), 6 H Pandya, 7 Axar, 8 Sundar, 9 Kumar, 10 Thakur, 11 Chahal.
England XI: pace not spin
England bring in Mark Wood, and Jofra Archer has recovered from his bad elbow, so there’s plenty of pace. But no Moeen Ali, and not even a part-time spinner to be Rashid’s wingman. Will they regret that?
England 1 Roy, 2 Buttler (wkt), 3 Malan, 4 Bairstow, 5 Stokes, 6 Morgan (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Jordan, 9 Wood, 10 Archer, 11 Rashid.
“Probably would have bowled first as well,” says Virat Kohli, candidly.
Toss: England win and bowl first
Eoin Morgan calls heads, heads it is, and he elects to chase. “The wicket looks really good. The last couple of nights, there’s been a bit of dew around.”
While we wait for the toss, Yash Gupta has a cunning plan. “If England rather than giving India a thumping in first match and then losing series 4-1, manage to lose first match by a handsome margin, I can see their chances of clinching a series. After all, they would want to avoid the pitch going Hallelujah again once they gain an upper hand in the series, and I guess THEY WILL DO WELL TO REMEMBER IT (whispering in Professor McGonagall’s voice).”
Preamble: battle of the top dogs
Afternoon everyone. Once more unto the crease, dear friends, once more unto the Ahmedabad colosseum. But this time it’s a different ballgame. The clothes are coloured, the ball is white, the timing is congenial for anyone in the West. And the scales are beautifully balanced.
This is a shoot-out between the world’s two best teams in T20 internationals. England are top of the ICC rankings, India second. Both of them have four wins in their last five T20 matches, but India have four in their last five against England. They also have home advantage (even a crowd) and our old friend Mo Mentum, who changed sides rather abruptly a month ago.
Yesterday Virat Kohli and Eoin Morgan were both busy claiming to be the underdogs. If they were in England, Kohli would be right. As it is, the most likely result, according to Oddschecker, is 3-2 to India. For all Morgan’s mastery, England will be doing well if they avoid a 4-1 defeat – which is what India need to topple them from their perch.
The big question for England’s big-hitters is this: how long will it take them to make a mockery of their Test brethren? (Some of whom are the same people.) In their catalogue of capitulation, England scraped 134, 164, 112, 81, 205 and 135. That gave them a team average of 138, which is fewer than they scored in 11 of their last 12 T20s (and the 12th, at Old Trafford, was ruined by rain). In those 12 T20s, they were never once all out. It’s quite an achievement to score more runs when you have only 20 overs to play with, as opposed to all the time in the world. They might even have won the Test series if only they’d handled the pink ball differently and gone hell for lacquer.
Will Axar Patel be back to torment them again? Probably only if it’s another turning pitch – in which case Adil Rashid should be able to give India a dose of their own medicine. His fellow leggie, Yuzvendra Chahal, will be licking his lips too. It’s all mouth-watering. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to nip out for a vaccination. See you after 1pm GMT for the toss and the teams.