THE LAST time England played a T20 game in India they lost to the West Indies in the world cup final.
They fared somewhat better yesterday, beating India by seven wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Like an introvert who comes out of his shell after a couple of pints, England have suddenly come alive.
This win followed victory in the final one-day international in Kolkata on Sunday, which ended a sequence of six successive defeats against the host nation.
In contrast to their efforts in the one-day series, England’s win in Kanpur yesterday was built on a fine performance with the ball.
On a pitch on which a total in the region of 180 should have been achievable, India managed only 147-7 after being sent into bat.
Moeen Ali starred with 2-21 from four overs, while pace bowlers Tymal Mills and Chris Jordan both returned 1-27 from their four.
Liam Plunkett (1-32) and Ben Stokes (1-37) played their part, with MS Dhoni’s unbeaten 36 the highest score.
England’s limited-overs cricket is too good nowadays – and their batting line-up too powerful – to be fazed by a target of under seven-and-a-half runs an over, and so it proved.
After just 19 balls of their reply, the tourists were 42-0 as Jason Roy and Sam Billings cut loose in impressive manner.
Although both then fell in the space of four balls, bowled by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, captain Eoin Morgan and Joe Root put the issue beyond doubt with a stand of 83 in 12 overs.
Morgan top-scored with 51 from 38 balls with four sixes, continuing the good form he showed at the end of the one-day series, while Root finished unbeaten on a run-a-ball 46.
That it was England’s day was emphasised when Root was “bowled” off successive deliveries from Jasprit Bumrah, the first being a no-ball and the second a free-hit from which he could not be dismissed.
One was almost willing Bumrah to then bowl Root off another no-ball to complete what would surely have been an unprecedented “hat-trick”.
India’s bowlers were not nearly as disciplined and professional as England’s, which was ultimately the difference between the sides.
Mills set the tone, coming back well after a couple of boundaries in his first over to prove his worth in the game’s shortest form.
Born in Dewsbury, Mills has shot to prominence via Essex and Sussex and provides great variety with his left-arm pace.
Due to a congenital back condition, with the proximity of his spinal cord and vertebrae allowing him to bowl only in fleeting bursts, the 24-year-old is now a T20 specialist.
His loss to the first-class and one-day game is considerable, for left-arm 90mph pace bowlers are in short supply, and it was a proud moment for him yesterday when he claimed his first international wicket on his second appearance, having Hardik Pandya caught by Billings at deep backward-point.
Such was the strength and variety of England’s attack that Morgan did not feel the need to call on Adil Rashid.
It was a measure of England’s dominance on a day when they delivered as complete a performance as they could reasonably have wished for.