ADELAIDE, November 10: A thoroughly professional England annihilated an out-of- sync India by 10 wickets to sail into the World Cup final as Alex Hales and Jos Buttler’s relentless hitting mortified Rohit Sharma’s clueless attack, here on Thursday.
England seemed to have saved their best for the grand stage as they reduced the semifinal to a lop-sided affair, courtesy a splendid bowling effort which they complemented with some breathtaking stroke-making.
It was Hardik Pandya (68 off 33 balls), whose fearless hitting took India to 168 for six but it was just about a par-score at the Adelaide Oval.
England captain Buttler (80 not out) set the tone with three boundaries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s opening over but it was Hales (86 not out off) who butchered the Indian attack into submission.
The target was achieved in just 16 overs as England batting line-up clicked for the first time in the tourney and what a day it chose to bring its A game to the fore.
The England opening duo gave India’s star-studded line-up a lesson in how to build a T20 innings: that there is only one way, the offensive way.
It was one match that was decided in Powerplay as India managed only 38 runs in six overs as the archaic style of safety-first approach hurt them terribly.
In complete contrast, England’s top order which looked shaky throughout the league stage, smashed 63 in their six overs. The match was won and lost then and there.
Hales hit as many as seven sixes in his 47-ball knock and his approach showed that there were no demons in the track. He deployed the old-fashioned ‘Sanath Jayasuriya school’ of hitting in the first six overs.
When Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were batting, they were looking to hit through the line unlike Hales and Buttler.
Against lesser opposition like Bangladesh, they could make it up with a total of 168 but it was never enough for a side like England which has reinvented the grammar of T20 batting.
Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep Singh didn’t get enough swing up front and team management’s fascination to play Axar Patel (0/30 in 4 overs) and Ravichandran Ashwin (0/27 in 2 overs) ahead of Yuzvendra Chahal backfired badly.
The success of England spinner Adil Rashid (1/20 in 4 overs) on the same track added insult to injury.
By the time, Buttler hit Mohammed Shami (0/39 in 3 overs) down the ground for one of his three sixes, the Adelaide Oval stands wore a desolate half-empty look.
And the over-throws and the dropped catch by Suryakumar Yadav typified a day when everything that could go wrong went wrong for India.
This Indian team never had all its bases covered and paid the price.
But even in this defeat, the T20 captain-in-waiting Pandya revelled in the role of a finisher with a sensational knock that gave India a chance to fight.
Virat Kohli (50 off 40 balls) occasionally displayed his regal array of strokes but it was the flamboyant Baroda man whose unbelievable end-over pyrotechnics took India to a fighting total, which had looked distinctly impossible after the first 10 overs.
In the last four overs, India scored 58 runs, courtesy four fours and five astonishing sixes from Pandya with a drop-dead gorgeous flick behind the square off Chris Jordan (3/43) being the stand out one.
KL Rahul’s (5) abject failure against bigger teams looked even more pronounced as Chris Woakes exposed his shortcomings with extra bounce in the second over.
But if India scored at least 20 runs less, blame it on skipper Rohit Sharma (27 off 28 balls) and the first 10 overs that yielded only 62 runs. In a semifinal, consuming 42 dot balls (effectively 7 maiden overs) doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Had it not been for the sixes that Hardik hit off Sam Curran (0/42) and Jordan, India would have ended with a below-par score as Kohli, despite his fourth half-century in the tournament, couldn’t up the ante.
There are times it seems that Kohli is on a mission to be better than the best. The six over extra cover off Woakes was simply unbelievable. The head position, the stillness and transfer of weight, everything in sync.
There was a short arm bowler’s back-drive over Liam Livingstone’s head even as Rohit struggled at the other end.
The back-to-back boundaries off Curran through mid-wicket region and similar shot over extra cover for a one-bounce boundary of Jordan’s deliveries were the only three convincing shots from the India skipper.
Not even the slog sweep for four off Rashid looked like he was in control and the final outcome wasn’t certainly what people expected in a big-ticket game from Rohit.
Pandya came to India’s rescue and changed the complexion of the innings.
You can’t teach anyone to handle pressure, says Rohit Sharma
India skipper Rohit Sharma on Thursday said that his players crumbled under pressure in a high-stakes T20 World Cup semi-final against England.
He blamed their insipid bowling performance for the humiliating 10-wicket loss.
Defending 169, Indian bowlers cut a sorry figure as England openers Alex Hales and Jos Buttler made a mockery of the chase, completing the task with four overs to spare.
“Pretty disappointed how it turned out today. We batted well at the back end to get that score. We were not up to the mark with the ball. It was definitely not a wicket where a team can come and chase it down in 16 overs. With the ball we couldn’t turn up today,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation.
“When it comes to knockout stages, it’s all about handling the pressure. Depends on the individual as well. You can’t teach anyone to handle pressure. When these guys play the playoffs in the IPL and all that, those are high-pressure games, and they’re able to handle it.
“The way we started with the ball was not ideal. We were a little nervous.”
Hales and Buttler didn’t put a foot wrong and the India skipper praised the English openers for their flawless knock.
“You got to give credit to their openers, they played really well. I thought it swung a bit in the first over, but not from the right areas. We know the runs are scored square of the wicket, we were aware about it.
“When we won the first game, it showed a lot of character. The game against Bangladesh, it was a tricky one. I thought we held our nerve and kept executing our plans. Couldn’t do that today.”
England skipper Jos Buttler lauded the team for scripting a remarkable turnaround after the shocking loss to Ireland early in the tournament.
“The character we have shown since then (England’s loss against Ireland) – it has been amazing. We came here very excited, there was a very good feeling,” he said.
“Everyone from 1 to 11 – stood up today. We always want to start fast and aggressively. Rashid was batting at 11, that’s incredible to know that we have such depth.”
Buttler, who had the best view as Hales went hammer and tongs, praised his opening partner for his breathtaking knock.
“Hales used the dimensions well and he has shown his form. He was brilliant today. It’s important to enjoy this, it was a brilliant performance from us,” he said.
Chris Jordan did most of the damage, returning with 3 for 43 after coming into the semifinals as a replacement for an injured Mark Wood.
“We need to give special credit to Jordan, to bowl three overs at the death coming into the semi-final, it was a tough job. He handled the pressure towards the end pretty well, especially bowling against a world class player like Hardik Pandya,” Buttler said.
Hales, who was adjudged the Player of the Match, for his scintillating 47-ball knock, said it was a “special knock” and the “best night of his career” as he never expected to play in another World Cup.
“It will be right up there for sure (referring to a perfect innings). Huge occasion, India in a semifinal of a World Cup, really happy with the way I played and it is as special as it gets,” said Hales, who hit four boundaries and as many as seven sixes.
“This is one of the best grounds to bat in especially in the powerplay, a really good surface and great value for good cricket shots, this is a ground I have good memories of and enjoy batting here.”
Hales had joined the England team for this World Cup after a three-year exile following his failed recreational drug test in 2019.
“I never thought I would play in a World Cup again, so to get the chance is a very special feeling, in a country (Australia) that I love and spend a lot of time in, tonight is one of the best night’s of my career.” (PTI)