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Buttler shines with 83 off 52 balls as England beat India by 8 wkts in 3rd T20I
New Delhi, March 16, 2021
What Virat Kohli can do, Jos Buttler can do better. The England opener delivered in style on a day when sixes rained galore and Indians ended up with more problems than they had envisaged in this format of the game.
Kohli set up a game with a blistering 77 off 46 balls (eight 4s and four 6s) but `Man of the Match’ Buttler reduced it to a no-contest with his astounding strokeplay. Buttler did nothing wrong – 83 off 52 balls (five 4s and four 6s) – as England finished it convincingly with an eight-wicket win in the third T20 International of the series at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Put in to bat first, India made 156 for six from their 20 overs. Powered by Buttler's powerful knock, England reached 158 for two in 18.2 overs. Jonny Bairstow remained unbeaten for the visitors with 40.
The top half of the Indian batting failed to respond to the searing pace that the English bowlers generated and then the bowling had no clue against the skillful response by the opponents. England batsmen demonstrated the footwork needed to tackle the bowlers on a pitch which had a good "carry" and the bounce actually suited Buttler’s aggressive instincts. What stood out most in this match was some innovative strokeplay by Kohli, Buttler and Jonny Bairstow.
The absence of spectators was a welcome development at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad following the scary scenes in the previous match when all precautions were bypassed by the majority of the fans. The organizers wisely decided to go ahead by playing behind closed doors and it was a grim reminder that the onus lay on the fans. If they followed the safety protocols, they shall be welcomed to the venue.
A good contest is best signified when the bowlers enjoy the conditions and look to exploit them; as we saw in the third match of the T20 series. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood worked up pace, hustled the Indian openers and looked to pick up wickets. They were not going to rest by just bowling dot balls. The focus was clearly to snare some victims and not allow the Indian innings to settle. This was vintage cricket.
Toss was a factor but then credit to the English bowlers for making an early impact with the manner in which they got the wickets. KL Rahul, in awful form, was beaten for pace, bowled all ends up. And then Rohit Sharma, making his first appearance in this T20 series, was stifled by the speed that Wood generated. Of course, Rohit picked the wrong ball and bowler to play that pull shot.
That cricket, like life, can be a great leveler was evident in the manner in which Ishan Kishan left the stage. He was halfway through his shot as the ball climbed on him and the high edge was taken comfortably by the wicketkeeper Buttler running back.
At 24 for three, India had its back to the wall and England could back itself to dominate. India, however, showed its aggressive intent by pushing Rishabh Pant ahead of Shreyas Iyer.
Pant lost little time in getting his shots right but not in attempting a third run. It was poor cricket sense by the young wicketkeeper and there was always a risk for him to reach the far end even if it was not the danger end. That was a needless wicket to lose and India was back to depending on the striking abilities of Kohli. He did not disappoint.
There was talk of Kohli running into a bad patch and here he was producing a gem. Not the best from his stable but one of those innings that showcased his amazing repertoire of shots. He moved around in the crease like a ballad dancer and picked shots with precise destinations.
Kohli in such form is always a delight for the purist, too, regardless of the cross-batted slaying of the bowlers. Kohli then was the difference in the first half. He just tore into the bowlers and set up a 150-plus total which gave the bowlers some chance to defend. But Buttler spoilt the party to put England 2-1 ahead in the five-match series.
India 156 for 6 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 77 not out, Rishabh Pant 25) lost to England 158 for 2 in 18.2 overs (Jos Buttler 83 not out, Jonny Bairstow 40 not out).