Indian spinners Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla ripped through the England batting to lead their side to a crushing 90-run win in a one-sided Twenty20 World Cup Group A match on Sunday.
Chasing 171 for victory, England crumbled to 80 all out, their lowest Twenty20 total condemning the defending champions to their heaviest loss in the shortest form of the game.
Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 55 off 33 balls fired India to an imposing total of 170 for four before man-of-the-match Harbhajan took four for 12 on his return to the side and Chawla two for 13.
Both teams had already qualified for the Super Eight stage by beating Afghanistan but England’s feeble capitulation will be a major concern heading into the next phase of the tournament.
“It was poor all round,” England captain Stuart Broad said in a televised interview. “We were pretty happy with 170 but we didn’t get it right with the bat at all and India got it very right. We played across the line a bit too much whereas against Afghanistan we struck the ball very straight.”
India lost the early wicket of Irfan Pathan after being put into bat but Gautam Gambir made 45 and Virat Kohli 40 in a fluent second-wicket partnership of 57.
Kohli was caught in the deep by Jonny Bairstow off spinner Graeme Swann but Sharma settled in quickly, hitting the only six of the innings and five fours as England’s fast bowlers struggled to get much out of a placid pitch.
Craig Kieswetter smashed two huge sixes to get England off to a decent start but Pathan removed Alex Hales and Luke Wright before the Indian spinners took charge.
England collapsed from 39 for two to 60 for nine and when Kieswetter edged Chawla to Kohli at slip for 35 their last chance had disappeared.
“The response from the spinners was brilliant,” Dhoni said.
“We thought ‘let’s go back to what our strengths are’, gave both our spinners a fair chance and now we’ve got a [selection] problem as they both played well.”
Dhoni was especially pleased with the experienced Harbhajan.
“Harbhajan bowled well especially his length, he didn’t bowl short,” Dhoni said.
“He invited the batsmen to drive by pitching the ball up, his variations, he made good use of plus his mindset was very aggressive.
“If you compare this match with the one against Afghanistan, we have improved a bit in this game,” said Dhoni.
“But bigger teams await us and we need to be consistent in every match, we have to be at our best.”