India 144 for 8 (Rahul 71, Jordan 3-22) beat England 139 for 6 (Stokes 38, Root 38, Nehra 3-28) by five runs
Jasprit Bumrah conceded just two runs and took two wickets in the final over to secure India a nerve-shredding victory in the second T20 in Nagpur and level the series at 1-1. Jos Buttler seemed to have struck the decisive blows when he hit the last three balls of the penultimate over for 12 runs, but both he and Joe Root were dismissed by Bumrah as England fell short.
With Root and Ben Stokes well-set and 32 required off the last four, India broke through via Ashish Nehra. Bumrah then conceded three runs off the 18th over, as his slower ball proved almost impossible to hit. Nehra’s final over was taken for 16, Buttler just clearing Virat Kohli’s jump at long-on for a six that brought England’s requirement down to eight from six balls, before Bumrah provided the kiss of death.
England could have sealed the series, but, as the pitch slowed down, so did they. Root anchored the chase, as he did in Kanpur, but again struggled for fluency, although he had cause to feel aggrieved after being given out lbw despite an inside edge. Bumrah then removed Buttler’s leg stump and Moeen Ali swiped at thin air with six needed off the final ball as India held on in front of a tense home crowd at the VCA Stadium.
KL Rahul was the only player to record a fifty in the match, and his 47-ball 71 featured some of the most fluent batting of the night. Rahul was one of only three India batsmen to reach double-figures as they struggled to break free, with Chris Jordan claiming three key wickets for England, but their total of 144 for 8 ultimately proved to be enough.
As in the first T20, England’s attack put in an intelligent performance to prevent India from reaching 150. Moeen did not concede a boundary during an immaculate four-over spell, and Jordan removed Rahul, as well as the twin pillars of Kohli and MS Dhoni, to finish with 3 for 22. His final over, during which there were two run-outs, cost just five runs as he repeatedly thwarted Dhoni – though Bumrah’s finishing was even better.
Recognising this was a slower surface – Eoin Morgan called it “a really Indian wicket” at the toss – England included a third spinner in Liam Dawson and both sides tailored their plans accordingly. Dawson opened the bowling for England with an over that cost just five, while Yuvzendra Chahal sent down three-quarters of his allocation in the Powerplay.
Sam Billings and Jason Roy each struck Chahal for six in the third over of the chase, but England’s openers were dismissed by consecutive deliveries from Nehra. Kohli then focused on spin to try and push up the asking rate, before dew rendered the ball difficult to drip, with Amit Mishra and Suresh Raina delivering eight overs in tandem. Mishra had Morgan caught at the boundary, but then committed a cardinal sin as Stokes survived what would have been a golden duck thanks to a front-foot no-ball.
Still, like India’s batsmen before them, England were finding run-scoring hard. Of the 10 T20Is previously played at the VCA Stadium, only three had been won by the chasing side; India had themselves fallen victim a year ago, in their opening match at the World T20, when New Zealand defended a meagre-looking total of 126 with room to spare.
England’s advantage seemed to be in the power at their disposal and Stokes’ reprieve was put into sharper focus when he struck Raina down the ground for six and four to start the 14th over, just as the required rate had gone above nine an over. Another muscular heave off Chahal comfortably cleared long-on to bring up England’s hundred, but Nehra trapped him with a slower ball to precipitate the late slide.
That the bowlers would hold greater sway in Nagpur was evident early on. Kohli targeted a fast start and struck three boundaries – including one imperious six off Tymal Mills – but should have been given out lbw on 7 when Jordan pinned him in front of middle and leg. He departed soon after, trying to clear the infield again, having scored 21 of the first 30.
Rahul’s initial contributions had been limited to nudges for one or two but he registered his first four from Jordan’s next ball, rifling a drive over extra cover, and began to find his touch against the spinners. India had finished the Powerplay reasonably well-placed on 46 for 1, but Moeen and Adil Rashid followed up with three boundary-less overs, which also saw the removal of Raina to an ungainly slog-sweep. Rahul broke the shackles by smacking a Rashid full toss into the crowd at deep midwicket.
India stalled again as Moeen gave Yuvraj Singh a working over before dismissing him lbw, but Rahul struck Dawson for six and four in an over that cost 15, then took two more boundaries off Rashid to bring up the hundred in the 14th over. Rahul and Manish Pandey added 56 together, but the going was tough as England reverted to seam and the full chocolate box of variations.
The last six overs saw England concede just two boundaries – one a thick-edged Rahul four off Stokes, the other Pandey crashing Mills over long-on – as India added 39 for 5. Rahul picked out deep midwicket trying to kick on and Pandey was bowled by Mills’ slower ball but, even though Jordan silenced Dhoni, Bumrah had the final word.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick