Done in by spin

Architects of India's thumping victory...Harbhajan Singh is hugged by Piyush Chawla after the-K.R. DEEPAK

Playing for India again after a year’s break that was spent in quelling self-doubts and regaining his spinning rhythm, Harbhajan Singh’s four for 12 spell powered India to a 90-run victory over England in an ICC World Twenty20 Group A match that also revealed Rohit Sharma’s innate ability, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Spin and its seductive charms have often been India’s favourite gambit to unsettle England in the past.

Giants and nervous youngsters, in combination, have usually found their feel-good high against men, who stood transfixed and toppled over. B. S. Chandrasekhar at the Oval, 1971; Laxman Sivaramakrishnan in Bombay, 1984; and Anil Kumble’s innumerable strikes at home in the 1990s, to name a few, have all bequeathed the death rattle to confounded batsmen.

That old tale was again on view in Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium on a Sunday (Sept. 23) that oscillated between its warm air and skies stained with streaks of dark clouds. “Thank u everyone for all the wishes. God has been very kind. I owe a big thanks to all who stood by me. So happy to wear India jersey again,” tweeted Harbhajan Singh, with the amalgam of relief and joy, palpable in those words.

Playing for India again after a year’s break that was spent in quelling self-doubts and regaining his spinning rhythm, Harbhajan’s four for 12 spell powered India to a 90-run victory over England in an ICC World Twenty20 Group A match that also revealed Rohit Sharma’s innate ability.

The Mumbaikar’s unbeaten 55 (33b, 5x4, 1x6) helped India post 170 for four, which acquired an ominous air only after Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla too came into play. England was bowled out for 80 in 14.4 overs. And it was a result that put into perspective the warped inferences that were made in the public domain: India struggled to win against Afghanistan; England crushed Nawroz Mangal’s team; So England is vastly superior to India.

And like it has often done in the past, India bucked that odd deduction. Even in the 2011 World Cup, M. S. Dhoni’s men were laboured in their victories over minnows like the Netherlands but raised their tempo against the stronger teams and finished it off with the cup that mattered.

The result though was a distant horizon when India, in a bid to give better exposure to a wider pool of players, rested Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and R. Ashwin. The vacancies were filled up by Harbhajan, Ashok Dinda and Chawla as Stuart Broad won the toss and opted to field.

India lost Irfan Pathan early but Gautam Gambhir (45) and Virat Kohli (40) settled the innings that was based on the southpaw’s solidity and the youngster’s fine form. However Gambhir was unable to quicken proceedings and with Graeme Swann imposing the brakes, Kohli tried to clear mid-wicket and perished.

Rohit, promoted to the fourth slot ahead of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, walked in with India placed at 81 for two in 10.3 overs. The extreme viewpoints that juxtaposed his ‘obvious talent’ with ‘middling efficiency at the highest level’ shadowed him to the crease but Rohit remained unflustered and once he pulled Jade Dernbach for four, he was all set to enter the zone.

He also had to release India from the shackles of a slow scoring-rate and he did that with a proficient touch that remained overwhelmingly elegant. He upper-cut and pulled Broad and, in the last over, sent Dernbach in a lovely arc over point for six.

Harbhajan then made the night his own after Irfan dismissed Alex Hales and Luke Wright. Eoin Morgan was beaten on the cut and with a wicket in his very first over, Harbhajan was in a different league. He mixed up his deliveries and, with his line and length remaining impeccable, batsmen were caught in two minds especially about the doosra that spun away.

Though he nailed better batsmen, Harbhajan must have drawn some impish delight in the manner in which he beat his counterpart Swann in the air while Dhoni whipped the bails. Chawla also dismissed a couple, including Craig Kieswetter, and India’s earlier bowling woes seemed a thing of the past, at least for the time being.

THE SCORES

India: G. Gambhir c Kieswetter b Finn 45; I. Pathan b Finn 8; V. Kohli c Bairstow b Swann 40; Rohit Sharma (not out) 55; M. Dhoni c Hales b Bresnan 9; S. Raina (not out) 1. Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-8) 12. Total (for four wkts., in 20 overs): 170.

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-81, 3-119, 4-166.

England bowling: Finn 4-0-33-2, Dernbach 4-0-45-1, Broad 4-0-36-0, Bresnan 4-0-35-0, Swann 4-0-17-1.

England: C. Kieswetter c Kohli b Chawla 35; A. Hales b Pathan 0; L. Wright lbw b Pathan 6; E. Morgan b Harbhajan 2; J. Bairstow b Chawla 1; J. Buttler b Harbhajan 11; T. Bresnan c Gambhir b Harbhajan 1; S. Broad c Gambhir b Dinda 3; G. Swann st. Dhoni b Harbhajan 0; S. Finn (not out) 8; J. Dernbach (run out) 12. Extras (w-1) 1. Total (in 14.4 overs): 80.

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-18, 3-39, 4-42, 5-51, 6-54, 7-60, 8-60, 9-60.

India bowling: Pathan 3-0-17-2, Balaji 1-0-10-0, Dinda 2-0-26-1, Harbhajan 4-2-12-4, Chawla 4-1-13-2, Yuvraj 0.4-0-2-0.