England hurtled along to 100 for 1 in 9.1 overs, yet only managed 198 for 9 in the third and final Twenty20 International against India at the County ground in Bristol on Sunday (July 8). Predictably, Eoin Morgan pointed to the lack of runs as the reason for the seven-wicket defeat on the small ground that helped India take the series 2-1, their eighth successive triumph in a three-match T20I series.
“I think so, probably about 20 or 30 (runs short),” the England captain admitted. “225 or 235 certainly would have been a more difficult chase, particularly if we had taken a wicket towards the end. India never really got away from us, but we struggled to take wickets. They kept up with the race… (Rohit Sharma) put them in a position where in the 16-17th over they could take the game away from us which is disappointing. Again, we did a lot of things right today, particularly the platform that was set, Jason (Roy) and Jos (Buttler) were brilliant upfront and almost gave us the license to think about 220 in or around there. But the execution of our shots didn’t really match up with getting to that total. We didn’t execute well enough on a good wicket, small ground, we should be better than that.”
Hardik Pandya was India’s hero with the ball, recovering from a terrible start that saw him concede 22 in his first over to finish with figures of 4 for 38, his best in all T20s. “I think he kept it very simple and hit a good length and we couldn’t hit it or we didn’t hit it,” Morgan said. “India stuck to banging it in on a hard length, some of it could have been hit out of the ground but they did stick to it until the far end when they went with yorkers. That’s what we tried to replicate because on this ground, taking wickets is a priority so we watched them do it, afterwards we couldn’t do it. So it emphasises that we need to be better at either putting somebody off their length or hitting length.”
With the inclusion of Ben Stokes ahead of Joe Root, England had a full-strength squad for the first time in ages – it was Stokes’s first T20I since February 1, 2017. “It’s the first time we’ve had our strongest group for quite some time,” Morgan acknowledged. “We’ve always treated it as a rest period to rest those guys who play all three formats, and it proves how competitive positions are. Leaving Joe out today… difficult decision. Ben coming in, Dawid Malan missing out only being a reserve batter, Sam Curran not getting a chance. There’s a lot of competition for places and that gives everyone a nudge in the playing XI to want to do better.
“He (Stokes) could have bowled three, maybe four but it was tactical. We couldn’t get wickets, we were just chopping and changing, trying to find a wicket. Trying to be as unpredictable as we could and it didn’t work.”
Even though India lorded the first and third matches, winning by eight and seven wickets respectively in a series where the side chasing prevailed in all games, Morgan took comfort from what he termed a ‘competitive’ series “This series has been pretty competitive, probably bar the first game, they played extremely well in the first game but they have been three different games completely,” the England skipper observed. “The first game they dominated, the second game we came back hard but it was quite cagey and then this game was a high-scoring game. It doesn’t necessarily expose us in one area but it allows us to grow as a team, and allows us that competition base of playing in completely different dimensions at a ground and wickets as well. I don’t think we have to play a completely perfect game every time. We proved that in Cardiff, but certainly today and the other day.”
Close to 400 runs were scored for the loss of just 12 wickets in a little under 39 overs, but Morgan didn’t believe the modern game was being unjust on the bowlers. “I think the dimensions of the ground and the surface that we played on today played a big part in the game,” he remarked. “Obviously everyone likes chasing, particularly in T20 cricket, so I think that’s the big part of it. India were probably on top of their game today and we weren’t and we were just short. Like I mentioned, we did a lot of good things today, and those 20 or 30 runs we missed out on probably in the back end of our innings cost us.”
The stage is now set for the three-match One-Day International series starting in Nottingham on Thursday. “I’m pretty confident,” insisted Morgan. “Again, it doesn’t mean we’re going to go and wins game of cricket, or have the divine right to go and win a game of cricket. We have to remember all the hard work we have put in to beat the good teams and India are one of those good teams.”