x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

England send India home

The defending champions struggle against the host nation's bowlers and are out of the World Twenty20.

LONDON // Graeme Swann proved to be the joker in England's pack as the host nation broke the hearts of the Blue Billion in the World Twenty20 at Lord's. The off-spinner, 30, finally made his Test debut in Chennai at the end of last year, eight years after his hastily-aborted first attempt at the international game. He has since established himself as a key player in all three forms of the game, as well as the England dressing room, and struck the vital blow here to send the defending champions India crashing out. Swann claimed the crucial wicket of Yuvraj Singh with a brilliant piece of spin bowling, beating India's star batsman in the flight and having him adroitly stumped by James Foster, another of England's renaissance men.

It destabilised India's run chase at the critical point and they ended up three runs short. England will earn a place in the World Twenty20 semi-final if they beat the West Indies at the Oval in their final pool match, while India have an early flight home. Earlier, Harbhajan Singh had rolled back the years to evoke memories of one of India's greatest glories, in the NatWest Series final at the same ground against the same opposition in 2002. The Punjabi spinner was a mere youth when he played in that stirring final at cricket's traditional home. Seven years on, he is a mainstay of Team India in a format of the game which had not yet even been conceived back then. The feisty Harbhajan, who went wicketless then, led the attack this time, and picked up three for 30 in a spell which was only sullied by the concession of five wides twice, with both arriving off the final ball of an over. His spell punctured England's early momentum, which had been garnered via the usual route, Kevin Pietersen, who made 46 from 27 balls.

When he went, the very ball after launching Ravindra Jadeja into the top tier of the Grandstand, the home nation were on 92 for three. They stumbled to 153 for seven by the end of the 20 overs. Ryan Sidebottom, arguably England's most visibly passionate cricketer, revelled in his return to the side after a long stint on the sidelines, initially through injury. When the reply began, he picked up the first two Indian wickets, both off his rarely used bouncer. Rohit Sharma went back cheaply after playing on attempting to hook. Suresh Raina, a fierce-hitter who has long had question marks over his aptitude against the short-ball, continued to look shaky when England's new-ball bowlers pelted him. He just fended off Jimmy Anderson the over before, then Sidebottom struck straight after, inducing a top-edge from a pull.

Notably, Sidebottom's pace at that time hovered around the 90mph mark, as the adrenalin coursed through him. He usually operates around 78mph. England had their hand on the jugular with India on 40 for two after seven overs, then Collingwood made the curious decision to bring on Kevin Pietersen. His brand of part-time off-breaks were easy prey for players weaned on spin, and they helped themselves to nine from his over. There have been worse overs in the tournament, but it gave the chase some much-needed impetus. It was given a further shot when Yuvraj came to the wicket in the 11th over with the score at 62 for three. He hit a majestic six off the first ball he faced, off Dimitri Mascarenhas's medium pace. However, when Swann ended his innings of 17 off nine balls, which included two maximum, India's knock seemed to be in terminal fall. So it proved as Sidebottom bowled England to a thrilling victory. pradley@thenational.ae