Kolkata: Virat Kohli played the role of a opener to nicety to offset for India’s opening woes as he and Rohit Sharma laid the foundation for an emphatic 36-run over England in Ahmedabad to clinch an absorbing T20 series by 3-2 margin on Saturday.
It was a surprise to see the Indian captain coming out to open with Sharma - a sight enough to send the shivers down the rival bowlers’ spines. Kohli (80 not out off 52 balls) scored his 28th half-century in T20s while Sharma (64 off 34) were simply unstoppable as they were instrumental in setting up a mammoth 224 for two - their highest T20 total against England.
Hardik Pandya, coming in at No.4, gave a late charge to remain unbeaten on 39 while Suryakumar Yadav continued from where he left off in the last game with 32.
''Today Rohit and me were both positive in our intent. We knew we could trust each other and one of us can play second fiddle if one takes off. Tonight it was classic Rohit Sharma. And then Surya coming in at three and taking the game even further away. Then Hardik finishing it,’’ Kohli said later.
Kohli revealed that he would continue opening the batting both for India and for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the upcoming Indian Premier League.
''I am going to open in the IPL as well; have batted in different positions in the past. But I feel we have a solid middle order now. It is about the two best players getting maximum number of balls in T20 cricket. I'd like to partner Rohit at the top and the other guys feel confident when one of us is in. I’d like that to continue that,’’ said Kohli.
The visitors began disastrously as they lost opener Jason Roy, the most consistent batsman for them in the series, was bowled by a sharp inswinger from Bhubaneshwar Kumar off the first delivery of the innings.
Buttler, Malan in counter-attack
Jos Buttler was then joined by Dawid Malan, who took up the challenge to showcase the qualities which has taken him to No.1 in ICC rankings for T20 batsmen. The duo stitched a 130-run partnership and were maintaining a 12-plus run rate at one stage, though Buttler eventually failed to clear the long off boundary and perished to Kumar.
Coming back to international cricket after a one-year lay-off due to injury, ‘Bhuvi’ was spot-in with his line and variety to finish with two wickets while Shardul Thakur picked up three - his knuckle ball which deceived Malan being a treat.
England innings lost steam after the two quick wickets of Buttler (52) and Malan (68) and they finished at 188 for eight wickets in 20 overs. with Dawid Malan scoring a 46-ball 68 (9x4s, 2x6s) and Jos Buttler making a rapidfire 34-ball 52 (2x4s, 4x6s).
Brief scores: India: 224/2 wickets in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 80 not out, Rohit Sharma 64, Hardik Pandya 39 not out, Suryakumar Yadav 32) beat England 188 for 8 wkts in 20 overs (Dawid Malan 68, Jos Buttler 52, Shardul Thakur 3/45, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 2/15) by 36 runs.