India’s T20 series victory over England was marked by the coming of age of Hardik Pandya the bowler. The all-rounder delivered under pressure with ball and bat, tremendously helping skipper Virat Kohli, especially in ringing in bowling changes on a tough pitch.
Hardik Pandya was the man of the moment at Bristol but it wasn’t just the four-wicket haul. He has shown throughout the series how it is done in tougher conditions, taking on the batsmen with clever variations and staying strong under pressure.
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Considering the start England had, with Jos Buttler and Jason Roy racing to 94/0 inside eight overs, the pressure was on India. With his experienced pacers out, and Umesh Yadav struggling with his length, the onus was on Pandya.
Having been taken for 22 runs in his first over – sixth of the innings and last in the powerplay phase — it was a test of Pandya’s temperament as well. And the way he delivered will be a huge boost to his confidence and raise the team’s faith in him.
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A chase of what could have been 225 was restricted to 199 by Pandya claiming England’s four big-hitters – Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. After the 22-run over, he went for just 16 in the next three.
“I am learning. I am always learning in the game. I’ve made sure I keep on learning from my mistakes… and with every game, I’m learning something or the other, which is helping my game. We have a fantastic staff and leaders who are giving us immense confidence to go and express ourselves. We are just enjoying our game rather than thinking about what’s going to happen. We’re just playing our best cricket, and when you do that, you eventually end up doing well.”
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At Manchester, in the first T20, except the one over – 11th of the innings – in which Buttler took 18 runs off him, Pandya bowled superbly to return figures of 4-0-33-1. After England started with a bang, he pulled things back first with a three-run sixth over.
At Cardiff, he returned figures of 4-0-28-1 (ER: 7.0) while trying to defend a below-par total, removing skipper Eoin Morgan as a partnership was being built.
Being an all-rounder helps him when he bowls in pressure situations. “I try to think like a batsman and try to outplay them. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. But most of the time it works, and it does look good. When it doesn’t work, it doesn’t look good.”
Pandya will have to show the same qualities in the one-dayers, where England are a much better side. Their batsmen won’t be under pressure to go for the slog straightaway.
But the way he has started, his team will be confident Pandya will again be up for the challenge.
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