India’s T20I batting prototype gave a measured account of its potential before their bowlers eked out a 33-win against Ireland in the second T20I at Malahide on Sunday. Ruturaj Gaikwad’s mature 42-ball 58 anchored India’s innings with Sanju Samson (40 off 26) and Rinku Singh (38 off 21 balls) providing the flourish needed to hustle Ireland into trying to play too aggressively from the start. Two wickets apiece from Prasidh Krishna and Ravi Bishnoi seemed to almost stifle the hosts’ chase but Andrew Balbirnie stood firm with a 51-ball 72 that took the game to the slog overs before India finally prevailed.
After rain had curtailed India’s innings in the first T20I, Ireland’s decision to put them to bat was a gilded opportunity to make the most of an evenly bouncy pitch with an experimental line-up. It’s rare for five out of the seven top batters of a team to be left-handed but India are in that phase of breaking in their IPL stars, most of whom happen to be left-handed. It’s not as if all of them had a great day at the office though.
Yashasvi Jaiswal was looking good for a solid score till his pull off Craig Young ended short of the boundary and in the hands of Curtis Campher. For the second straight game, Tilak Varma got out cheaply after his mistimed pull off Barry McCarthy was caught by George Dockrell.
In came Sanju Samson who injected the innings with some momentum, especially in the 11th over when he scored 18 runs off Joshua Little, replete with three boundaries and one massive six over deep fine leg. Gaikwad dug in, rotating the strike and giving Samson as many balls as possible till he opened up in the 15th over. Ireland were disciplined in their bowling, mixing up their lengths cleverly, but with Gaikwad and Samson—they added 71 in 49 balls—setting up India at 129/3 after 15 overs, the final offensive was only a matter of time.
It took Rinku Singh seven balls before getting his first boundary—going down on one knee and muscling Benjamin White through deep mid-wicket. Once that was out of his way, Singh picked apart Barry McCarthy in the 19th over—going 4,6,6 before depositing Mark Adair over the deep midwicket boundary in the next over. Bogged down by Ireland’s short-ball strategy, Shivam Dube too came to the party after hitting Adair for two sixes that over as India added 42 runs in the last 12 balls.
The only way Ireland could have matched that crescendo was by starting well. Which they did, to some extent after Andrew Balbirnie hit two boundaries off Arshdeep Singh in the second over. But Jasprit Bumrah took himself out of the attack after just one over and gave his end to Prasidh Krishna who straightaway provided India a break with two wickets in the space of four balls—first bouncing Paul Stirling into a top edge before luring Lorcan Tucker into a miscued pull. Ravi Bishnoi bowled Harry Tector through his gates and soon Ireland had slid to 63/4 after 10 overs.
That should have been that but the Irish stayed true to their fighting spirit with a rejuvenating 52-run stand off 30 balls as Balbirnie clobbered the shorter balls across the ground to give the locals something to cheer about. The innings would have panned out differently had Gaikwad held on to Balbirnie’s simple catch off Washington Sundar in the 14th over but that reprieve allowed Ireland to stay in the game till Arshdeep claimed his 50th T20I wicket by inducing a faint edge off Balbirnie to Samson. Krishna conceded two consecutive sixes in the 19th over but a wicket maiden final over from Bumrah, who finished with 4-1-15-2, sealed India’s series win.