This was more like it. A game that see-sawed and kept us enthralled right to the end.
Win the toss, win the match had been the mantra of grizzled pundits as Virat Kohli and Eoin Morgan went eyeball to eyeball. Victories for the team that had done that and put their opponents into bat in the previous three games had been conclusive with margins of eight, seven and eight wickets. As the coin fell for a third time in Captain Morgan’s favour, it was Kohli who may well have felt it was another rum do for India.
Batting first, India’s previous power plays of 24 for three and 22 for three had set rickety foundations for their later order to build on. England’s attack had been both penetrative and miserly.
Rohit and KL Rahul were men in a hurry though, the latter having received the captain’s vote of confidence despite a recent dire run which had brought him just one run in three innings.
If a signal was needed that things might be different, it wasn’t long in coming as Rashid’s first delivery was carved over long-off by Rohit for six. He did depart in the third over, however, caught and bowled as Archer really couldn’t miss the type of easy chance that had somehow eluded him on Tuesday.
Suryakumar Yadav had not contributed much to India’s seven-wicket victory on his debut – he didn’t bat – but, promoted to No 3, he repaid the confidence shown in him with a swashbuckling, man-of-the-match-winning effort, thumping 57 off 31 balls. India had accelerated to a power play of 45 for one and ultimate victory.
Had the home side not won, they would have looked back on Yadav’s dismissal more critically. He had been blazing along at 11 an over when he top-edged a sweep to deep backward square leg, where Dawid Malan got to the ball as it dropped. After an eternity of replays, Yadav was adjudged out, with the third umpire ruling that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the on-field soft signal of out.
England had a large foot in the door, but Shreyas Iyer was in no mood to welcome them in. His 37 off 18, with Rishabh Pant’s breezy 30, propelled India to a highly competitive 185 for eight, a crucial 29 runs beyond their previous best effort when batting first in this series.
England had not bowled badly, Rashid, Wood, Stokes and Curran picking up a wicket apiece, but the star turn was undoubtedly Archer’s four for 33. He might have hoped his reward would be a ringside seat to watch on as England completed the chase, but that hope was to be ill-founded.
The total was well within England’s grasp of course and off they set, dragging their fans with them on a rollercoaster ride. High expectations turned to despair, back to hope, despair again, but still offered a teasing, tantalising glimpse of unlikely victory heading into the final over.
Roy had blasted his way to 40, the third time in the series that he has failed to convert 40s into 50 or more. It took a Mumbai Indians’ double act to dislodge him, as Suryakumar Yadav held on to a top-edged skyer off the bowling of Hardik Pandya.
Buttler, though, had fallen early, deceived by a slower ball and although Malan needed 79 to become the fastest batsman to 1,000 runs in this format, he chugged rather than charged to 14 and was bowled by Rahul Chahar, victim of an ill-judged reverse sweep.
From there on the pendulum and WinViz swung together like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
Ahead on the powerplay at 48 for one it was advantage England.
The quick departures of Malan and Roy left England on 66 for three off nine. Advantage India.
A helping of middle-order ginger spice from Jonny Bairstow and, particularly, Ben Stokes, got the reply to 131 for four. Advantage England.
Bairstow went caught at point by Sundar off Chahar. England needed 46 off the last four overs, but with Captain Morgan and First Mate Stokes, things still seemed in England’s control.
They were to be broadsided, though, on 140 by two consecutive blasts of Shardul Thakur’s medium-pace cannon. Stokes died by the sword in the deep and Morgan’s ship ran aground in similar manner. Advantage India.
Sam Curran came and went, but still England went into the last over needing an unlikely 23. Jordan nearly played on but stole a single and then, boom, Archer smashed 10 from the “runs required” tally with two shots.
Three balls left. Twelve needed.
Indian nerves jangled. On-field captain Rohit puzzled, committee meetings took place, even a new ball was provided but India further contrived to shoot at their own feet, with Thakur bowling two wides, the second of which nearly landed in the Sabamati River.
Just as it seemed England might snatch the match and the series, however, Archer broke his bat flaying across the line and carried the damaged weapon to the non- striker’s end. Jordan holed out next ball and the game was done. Even Archer’s new bat didn’t see any real action as its one swing, off the final delivery, failed to make contact. India had won by eight runs.
So it’s 2 -2 going into Saturday’s decider. The victor will surely get a huge confidence boost ahead of the World Cup. Both these sides, however, will be very much focused on the here and now. Similar entertainment will be welcome whoever emerges with the honours.
Jingle by Richard Peel