India weren't exactly at their best but were good enough to bully Ireland as they completed a 76-run win in the first Twenty20 International played at the Malahide Cricket Club in Dublin on Wednesday (June 27) to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Rohit Sharma rode his luck on his way to 97 off 61 balls, and along with Shikhar Dhawan (74 off 45), added 160 runs for the first wicket, the second-highest stand for any wicket for India in T20Is, which was the base on which the visitors built their score of 208 for 5. In reply, Ireland were never in the game and were found wanting by the wrist spinners, eventually finishing at 132 for 9 in their 20 overs.
After being put in, Dhawan began aggressively while Rohit was iffy. The pitch was a wee bit on the slower side, and once Dhawan realised it, he quickly started using his feet and lifted the faster men over the infield. Whenever the bowlers pitched up, Dhawan stayed still and lofted the ball straight down the ground. By the time the Power Play was done, India had zipped to 59 for no loss with Dhawan hitting as many as three sixes.
Seeing Dhawan flourish from the other end, Rohit slowly started getting into his groove. He hit Boyd Rankin for a couple of boundaries on either side of the pitch in the fourth over to get going into his innings. Gary Wilson turned to spin as soon as the field restrictions were lifted. Rohit showed first signs of aggression when he stepped out against Simi Singh, the offspinner, and deposited the ball high over the mid-wicket fence. The floodgates had opened and India looked set to coast over 200.
Both batsmen, however, offered chances which were spurned by the hosts thrice. By the time Stuart Thompson finally held on to a catch, India had already put 160 runs on the board with four overs left. Suresh Raina (10) and MS Dhoni (11), both of whom were promoted to bat up the order, swung their bats at everything during their brief stay in the middle. Ireland arrested India's momentum in the final over of the innings when Peter Chase (4 for 35) saw the back of Rohit, Dhoni and Virat Kohli, who pushed himself down to No. 6 in the batting order. Hardik Pandya then struck the final delivery for a six to help India reach their fifth highest score in T20Is.
Ireland were jolted early during the chase when Paul Stirling skied a knuckle ball from Jasprit Bumrah (2 for 19) to mid-on. India, like Ireland, were sloppy in the field, grassing as many as three chances - all regulation ones - inside the first 21 balls of the innings. Despite the missed chances, India had a tight lid on Ireland who crawled to 43 for 1 after six overs.
Yuzvendra Chahal (3 for 38) came into the attack in the seventh over and immediately was amongst the wickets as he deceived Andy Balbirine (11) in the flight to get him out stumped. James Shannon (60 off 35) played Chahal smartly, slog-sweeping the legspinner for two sixes in as many overs. He waged a lone battle and completed his maiden T20I fifty in 29 balls.
After Chahal's early breakthrough, it was Kuldeep Yadav's turn to strike as he foxed Simi with a googly which the right-hander could only top-edge to the cover fielder. Shannon, however, continued to fight and smacked Chahal for a third six but was picked out by Kuldeep (4 for 21) in 12th over which virtually finished the contest. Both spinners picked two wickets each in their final overs and their combined tally to 7 for 59 in eight overs pretty much sums up Ireland’s woes.
Despite amassing over 200 runs for only the 10th time in 100 games, it wasn't a complete performance by Virat Kohli and his troops. The good news is India have another game to play before locking horns with England, who are in red-hot form in white-ball cricket.