COLOMBO: Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh made a memorable comeback as a India relied on a clinical all-round performance to thrash defending champions England by a whopping 90-run margin in their final group league match of the ICC World Twenty20on Sunday.Harbhajan Singh
India, despite resting three members of their first choice side, won by 90 runs with England’s enduring fallibility against spin bowling exposed in brutal fashion once again. Bear in mind that these two teams face each other in a four-Test series in India in the coming months and alarm bells will surely be ringing at Lord’s.
England’s first error was to misread the pitch. While India included two specialist spinners, England dropped Samit Patel to make way for the extra seam option of Tim Bresnan. Their ploy of testing the India batsmen with short deliveries was met with a series of cut and pulls that suggested either that England’s bowlers – Steven Finn apart – lack the pace for such a ploy, or that, in these conditions anyway, the reputation of Indian batsmen as flat-track bullies has been greatly exaggerated. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two conclusions.
But the defining feature of this match was England’s inability combat spin bowling. India’s two frontline spinners claimed six wickets for 25 runs in eight overs as England collapsed from 39 for 2 to 60 for 9. At that stage, England were in danger of being dismissed for the lowest T20I score – beating the 67 by Kenya against Ireland – before a last-wicket stand of 20 prevented that one indignity. Still, England’s final total of 80 was their lowest in T20Is, surpassing the 88 they managed against West Indies at The Oval in 2011. The margin of defeat is also the largest, in terms of runs, England have suffered in T20Is and the largest victory inflicted by India.
England were struggling even before the introduction of spin. Set 171 to win, a total some way above par on a pitch that was just a little slower than anticipated and did not allow England any time to settle in, they lost Alex Hales in the first over, bowled by inswing as he attempted to heave one over the leg side, before Luke Wright fell in the third over, attempting to pull a delivery too full for the stroke.
It was MS Dhoni’s decision to introduce the spin of Harbhajan Singh in the Powerplay that precipitated England’s decline. Harbhajan, playing his first international game for more than a year, produced a wicket maiden to start – Eoin Morgan was bowled by a quicker arm-ball as he made room to cut – before Bresnan top-edged a sweep, Jos Buttler gave himself room but missed and Graeme Swann skipped down the wicket and missed a doosra. Harbhajan finished with 4 for 12, the best figures by an Indian bowler in T20Is.