India continued their white-ball domination deflating England with a crushing eight-wicket win in the first Twenty20 International in Manchester. The caravan now moves to the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff for the second game where the tourists will be keen to seal the three-match series on Friday (July 6). The hosts, however, are still in it and probably desperate for a comeback.
India may have dreaded the cold and damp conditions in England before they arrived, but in a pleasant twist, Virat Kohli and his cavalry have been greeted with bright sunshine so far. Yes, things will change at some point during the tour but India might have inflicted major damage until that happens. Such has been their domination in the series opener that they hardly missed the services of Jasprit Bumrah, their premier white-ball bowler in the last 18 months. Kuldeep Yadav mesmerised the England batsmen and engineered a middle-order collapse during his career-best 5 for 24 while Umesh Yadav stepped up and grabbed his opportunity with both hands sending down a searing spell of 2 for 21 which went largely unnoticed. The bowlers did their bit and the batsmen, led by an unbeaten century by KL Rahul, stroked the ball beautifully to overhaul the below-par target.
England came into this series with a reputation of being a fierce limited-overs team. They had form on their side too as they white-washed a listless Australian team last month but their inability to tackle India's wrist spinners cost them the first game. They will have to quickly turn it around if they want to put this Indian team under pressure.
Under the microscope
Suresh Raina: While the left-hander had a good run in this year's Indian Premier League, he will be already feeling the heat despite getting a handsome 69 in his last T20I innings. That is the kind of competition amongst the middle-order batsmen for India. Raina has tallied 271 runs in 10 innings at 27.1 playing for India this year. These are numbers that are anything but threatening and if you remove that 69 against the lowly Irish, his average drops down to 22.44, they almost veer on unconvincing. At least for an Indian batsman these days. With KL Rahul scoring a rapid-fire ton in the previous game and a certain Dinesh Karthik breathing down his neck, Raina needs to keep delivering in order to seek permanence in the XI.
Joe Root: Since the beginning of 2017, the England Test captain has managed to score 178 runs in six innings at 35.6. These are decent numbers for this format but Root has scored these runs at an under-whelming strike-rate of 107.88. With the think-tank using him at No. 5 and 6 in the previous two games, Root needs to get on with the scoring rate. There is a possibility of Ben Stokes returning to the side for the final T20I which will put Root's position in the side under jeopardy if he doesn't get amongst the runs in Cardiff.
Only four T20Is have been played at the Sophia Gardens with India not featuring in anyone of them. It is not a very high-scoring ground with 145 being the average first-innings total. But four games is too low a sample size to form a judgment. If the weather remains the same, both teams will want to chase. Either way, it will still come down to how England tackle the leg spin part of the Indian equation. Because of their comprehensive win in Manchester, India start this game as the favorites.