WT20: Spinners inspire India to record win over England
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh grabbed 4-12 on his return after a year in the wilderness as India demolished defending champions England by 90 runs in their final group league match of the ICC World Twenty20 in Colombo on Sunday.
Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, who was also an unexpected selection for the match, also chipped in with 2-13 as England, chasing a challenging 171 to win, were shot out for their lowest T20i total of 80 in front of 20,000 spectators at the Premadasa stadium.
The two comeback men for Team India -- Harbhajan and Chawla -- spun a web around the England batsmen accounting six wickets for 25 runs in the eight overs between them.
Seamer Irfan Pathan bowled Alex Hales and trapped Luke Wright leg-before in his first two overs to reduce England to 18-2.
Wickets fell at regular intervals and the innings ended in the 15th over to complete a dominant win for India.
India rested seamer Zaheer Khan, spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and opener Virender Sehwag for the group ‘A’ match that held only academic interest since both teams had already qualified for the Super Eights.
But it was a morale-boosting win for the 2007 champions ahead of the next round, as they dominated England from start to finish.
The 32-year-old Harbhajan, who had been out of favour with the selectors since August last year before being recalled for the World Twenty20, claimed a wicket off his second delivery when he came on in the sixth over.
When his spell finished in the 12th over, England had slumped to 60-8 and lost their ninth wicket also at the same total.
England were in danger of falling for the lowest ever total in Twenty20 internationals -- 67 by Kenya against Ireland in 2008 -- before the last-wicket pair of Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach prevented the humiliation.
But the total still fell below England's previous lowest score of 88 against the West Indies at the Oval last year.
Earlier, under-fire Sharma hit a superb unbeaten half century. Promoted to number four, Rohit finally came good in an international match as he planned his innings to perfection, hitting 55 not out off 33 balls with five fours and a slashed six off Jade Dernbach.
An upper-cut off England captain Stuart Broad was also a treat to watch as the Mumbai youngster finally repaid the faith shown by his skipper who persisted with him despite repeated failures.
Gambhir also scored an useful 45 off 38 balls, hitting five boundaries in the process as the Indian side which have six specialist batsmen did admirably well against the English pace quartet.
The four-pronged pace attack of Broad, Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn and Dernbach used the short ball liberally to test Gambhir but he played the horizontal bat shot with a lot of control.
Makeshift opener Pathan fell for eight before the in-form Virat Kohli hit six boundaries during a second-wicket stand of 57 with Gambhir. Kohli looked good during is 32-ball-40 as he set the tempo with a fluent knock.
Sharma and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni took 38 runs in the last three overs to lift India past the 150-run mark. India finished with 170 for 4.
The unlikely bowling hero for England turned out to be Graeme Swann who gave away only 17 runs in his four overs.
England made one change from the team that beat Afghanistan, dropping left-arm spinner Samit Patel to play seamer Tim Bresnan.
This was India’s biggest victory margin in terms of runs in any Twenty20 Internationals.