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Strong batting. bench strength will lead to more wins in T20s

Virat Kohli felt a flexible batting order will help keep India's opponents guessing while they are in Ireland and England. The statement made ahead of the English tour proved correct in two weeks’ time when India won the T20 series against England. "The middle order is something we can experiment with in T20 games," said Kohli. "I've got a good mindset of who's batting where so in the next few games, not just the Ireland ones but also against England, we will look to be flexible and use them as and when the situation requires them," the skipper added. "We will look to surprise the opposition and we've asked the batsmen to have that flexibility and they have responded very well."

As Kohli predicted, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were the stars as the Indian top order stepped up once again. Rohit Sharma struck an unbeaten 100 on Sunday to lead India to win in the third T20I. Just as he anchored India in Bristol, KL Rahul did so at Manchester during the first T20I. The right-hander, too, scored a ton in that match. Shikhar Dhawan may have looked out of touch in the series but his ability with the bat is common knowledge. Kohli once again showed that he is the best when it comes to chasing a target. Kohli came in at number four when India was 62/2 needing a partnership. In no time Kohli went past the 40-run mark in the innings before being dismissed for 43 after Chris Jordan caught him off his own bowling. Kohli had done his work and Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma only needed to put in the finishing touches. The Indian skipper did something similar in Manchester as well. Rahul was set at one end and needed someone to stay at the crease with him and Kohli remained unbeaten on 20 from 22 to see India through.

Coach Ravi Shastri had said earlier that MS Dhoni is someone who is fitter than a player 10 years younger to him and this is the reason the captain and the team management backs him and wants him in the team. Well, Mr. Shastri was on point then as Dhoni is proving irreplaceable every time another option raises its head. It is not just his batting or wicketkeeping but also his understanding of the game. The former Indian skipper once again proved his worth in this series. The only innings where he got a chance to bat, Dhoni notched up a 24-ball 32. In the ;last match, he became the first player to take five catches in one single T20I game and was involved in a total of 6 dismissals out of the 9. In total, he finished the series with 8 dismissals that include two stumpings. Dhoni’s statistics behind the stumps and his runs tally with the bat prove why he finds a place in the side.

“Hardik Pandya is a really good all-round cricketer. He’s confident with his skills with bat and ball,” said Virat Kohli in the postmatch presentation after India won the third and final T20I by seven wickets to clinch series 2-1. But Kohli himself wouldn’t have thought that he would be praising Pandya after he was hammered for 20 runs off his first four balls of the match. Returning to his spell, Pandya turned things around in dramatic fashion. He picked 4 wickets in the next three overs and only gave 16 runs to end his quota with 4/38. India was chasing 199 in 20 overs and the visitors went over the line in 18.4 overs. India’s shoulders had dropped somewhat after Hardik Pandya concluded his first over. But the skipper still had faith in him and Pandya didn’t let him down. Pandya’s next three overs saw four wickets falling for 16 runs that included the dismissals of Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. But it didn’t end there. Hardik was promoted up the order in the chase as he came out to bat at number five and took the revenge with authority. He hammered 33 runs in 14 balls and remained unbeaten in Bristol.

India’s bench strength was on display in the series. An Australian side suffering from injury concerns lost a tri-series final because they didn’t have their frontline bowlers. The Indian team could have been on the same page with Jasprit Bumrah out of the limited over fixtures due to thumb injury while Bhuvneshwar Kumar was benched at Bristol due to fitness issues. But this didn’t really happen with India as they had players ready to take up the challenge. Deepak Chahar who was a part of India ‘A’ side a few days back saw himself donning the India jersey in Bristol. He gave 13 runs in his first over and returned with figures of 1/43 at the end of his spell. But that lone wicket was that of the dangerous Jason Roy, Roy was batting at 67 at the time and his wicket proved to be the turning point. England was eyeing a total in vicinity of 220 but that wicket opened a flooodgate of sorts and they were restricted to 198/9 in 20 overs. Roy’s opening partner and England’s go-to hitman Jos Buttler was dismissed by Siddarth Kaul who was roped in place of Bhuvneshwar and ended his spell with figures of 2/35. Krunal Pandya who is a household name due to his exploits in the Indian Premier League did not even get a chance to play.

The one major concern for Virat Kohli and the team management is the leaking of runs in powerplay overs. India gave away 53 runs in the first match, 42 in the second and 73 in the third. They did bounce back in two of them but can’t afford to leak runs like that in first six overs. Kohli lauded the effort of his bowlers to come back at the back end and restrict England to a sub-par score. “The comeback from the bowlers was outstanding. At one stage we thought they’d end up getting 225- 230. But the character they showed, that’s something we’re very proud of. Just hit our areas better I guess,” Kohli said at the post match presentation ceremony. “We have the qualities to bowl wicket-taking deliveries as well. 25-30 runs in this format can be massive,” he added.

Kohli summed up the T20 series as an enjoyment all around. “We enjoyed ourselves as batsmen. I don’t like to look at hindsight and say we could have added another bowler. Guys came up with the good. We’re gonna continue and try different things. You saw the kind of energy and attitude we had on the field. It’s a great way to start the tour.”

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