The result meant two important things – The 5th and final match will now be a winner takes all encounter and that a team had finally managed to successfully defend a total in this series. The three matches before this were all won by the team batting second.
England, the current number one ranked T20 team in the world and a side packed with power hitters, were well on course to chase down the 186-run target set by India. However a few changes, some forced, some deliberate, turned the match on its head.
England were 140/4 after 16 overs with a well-set Ben Stokes (46) and captain Eoin Morgan (4) at the crease when stand in captain Rohit Sharma brought Shardul Thakur back in the attack. Thakur at that time had two overs left.
At the end of the 16th over, Kohli had to go off the field because he “aggravated his upper quad”, as he revealed at the presentation ceremony after the match.
Stokes was, at this time, threatening to take the match away from India. The need of the hour was to bowl deliveries which Stokes and Morgan, two of the best hitters in modern day cricket wouldn’t be able to connect well. The dew factor was making it very difficult for the Indian bowlers to grip the ball well. Towels kept being taken out to dry the ball.
Despite that, Thakur delivered. He dismissed the two left handers off the first two deliveries of the 17th over with slow off-cutters bowled wide of their off stumps, with Thakur taking the pace off the ball. That was a big turning point in the match. The momentum had shifted.
Shardul Thakur celebrates taking the wicket of Eoin Morgan. (Reuters Photo)
Chris Jordan managed to score a boundary off the fourth ball of the 17th over off Thakur. And that gave the English a shot in the arm. Thakur conceded 7 runs in all in this over and took two very crucial wickets. He trusted his cutters.
Rohit then brought in Hardik Pandya to bowl the 18th over and his Mumbai Indians teammate conceded just 6 runs off the over and also dismissed Sam Curran off the last delivery.
The strategy here was clear. Curran likes the ball in his arc. The first three deliveries by Pandya were short. Curran wasn’t being able to connect. England managed to collect just 5 runs in these three deliveries, which included an overthrow and a leg-bye. Pandya was doing a superb job. The bowling change was spot on. And then Hardik finished with a flourish, dismissing Curran, who can be very dangerous with the bat, as he has shown Indian fans in the IPL off the last ball of the over. That in effect seemed to be the last nail in England’s coffin, with the scoreboard reading 153/7. The visitors at that point in time still needed 33 runs off 12 balls.
4th T20I: India beat England by 8 runs to level series
Rohit held back Thakur and brought in Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bowl the all-important penultimate over. And Bhuvi showed just how versatile he can be at the death. Almost all his deliveries in this over were different, as he showcased almost all the variations.
The deliveries in this over included – a full length delivery, a slower ball, an out-swinger, a cutter and a yorker. But England still stayed in the hunt, with Archer smashing a boundary off the last ball. The equation at that time read 23 needed off 6 balls and Thakur was back in the attack to bowl the last over.
The first ball was a good one and produced just one run, with an under edge off Jordan’s bat.
And then Archer brought England roaring back into the contest. The next delivery produced a four.
The umpires meanwhile changed the ball to get in a drier ball. Rohit in the meantime, talked to his Mumbai teammate Thakur to calm his nerves.
Thakur ran in with the changed ball in his hands and banged it in short, but it was in Archer’s range and he pulled it over the mid-wicket fence for a six.
In Pics: India survive final-over scare to level series against England
<p>India survived final-over drama to beat England by eight runs in the fourth Twenty20 International and level the five-match series 2-2 in Ahmedabad on Thursday. (Getty Images)</p>
Suddenly the equation had boiled down to 12 needed off 3. Very doable in a T20 match.
Thakur’s brain was on over drive as he tried to come up with a plan to bowl a delivery which Archer wouldn’t be able to connect well. As a result he bowled two consecutive wides outside the off-stump. More pressure. The equation was now 10 needed off 3.
Rohit, Hardik and Thakur had a long on field conference. The next step was being planned.
Archer then tried to smack the next delivery, a slower one and got a bottom edge and broke his bat. But England managed to take a single.
This combination of pictures shows how Jofra Archer’s bat broke. (AFP Photo)
With 9 runs needed off two balls, Thakur then bowled a delivery back of a length and though Jordan connected, the ball went straight into the hands of Hardik Pandya at long-off.
Barring extras, the match had been won.
Thakur’s confidence was back and he held his nerve and bowled a length ball outside off stump, which Archer couldn’t connect with.
India had pulled off an 8-run win and levelled the series 2-2.
Indian players celebrate after winning the match against England. (Getty Images)
Thakur returned figures of 3/42 in his four overs and after the match spoke about his plan of bowling knuckle balls to contain the England batsmen.
“There was a lot of dew in this match, which wasn’t true of the last three matches. They were swinging hard in the last over, and it was important to bowl a couple of dot balls and then the game was sealed. The dry ball worked for them, and when I tried a slow bouncer it was in the slot and it went for six. If we bowled the slow ones on the stumps it would’ve been easy to hit, so the target was to keep it away from their power zone. If the ball is drier, it’s easier to grip for the knuckle ball,” Thakur said.
The deciding match of the series will be played on Saturday at the same venue.