COLOMBO, Sept 23 (PTI): Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh made a memorable comeback as a India relied on a clinical all-round performance to thrash defending champions England by a whopping 90-run margin in their final group league match of the ICC World Twenty20 here today.
Put into bat, India posted a challenging 170 for four, riding on a superb unbeaten 55 from under-fire Rohit Sharma and useful contributions from Gautam Gambhir (45) and Virat Kohli (40).
The two comeback men – Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla – then spun a web around the England batsmen to bowl them out for a paltry 80 in 14.4 overs as they accounted six wickets for 25 runs in the eight overs between them.
Harbhajan had splendid figures of 4/12 with two wicket-maiden overs as England batsmen were totally clueless against the duo.
This was India’s biggest victory margin in terms of runs in any Twenty20 Internationals.
Playing his first international match in more than a year, Harbhajan got the ball to turn appreciably and also found the zip of the pitch. The off-breaks were turning viciously and the straighter one was equally lethal.
He bowled Eoin Morgan with a superb arm-ball and then got Tim Bresnan to sweep against the turn. Jose Butler got a classical off-break from the feisty off-spinner while Graeme Swann had no clue about the straighter one.
Chawla, who had figures of 2/13, got rid of Jonathan Bairstow with a superb googly while Craig Keiswetter who was top scorer with 35 could not read his leg-break.
Earlier, Rohit finally came good in an international match as he planned his innings to perfection, hitting an unbeaten 55 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.
In-form Virat Kohli looked good during is 32-ball-40 as he set the tempo with a fluent knock.
The unlikely bowling hero for England turned out to be Graeme Swann who gave away only 17 runs in his four overs.
Gambhir started with a pull shot off Jade Dernbach and then steered the bowler past third man region for consecutive boundaries. Trying to find some form, the two shots worked wonder for the senior opener.
Dhoni’s gamble to open with Irfan Pathan in place of an injured Virender Sehwag flopped as the left-hander could only manage eight runs before a delivery from Steven Finn held its line after pitching and, in the process, knocked down the off-stump.
Kohli, who can do no wrong these days, started with an exquisite cover drive off Finn. The next boundary was a square drive off Broad while the third one came when he gave Tim Bresnan the charge to lift him over extra cover. The fourth boundary, an elegant on-drive off Finn, was though the best shot of the innings.
India: G Gambhir c Kieswetter b Finn 45, I Pathan b Finn 8, V Kohli c Bairstow b Swann 40, R Sharma not out 55, MS Dhoni c Hales b Dernbach 9, S Raina not out 1. Extras: (B-1, LB-3, WD-8) 12. Total: (For 4 wickets in 20 overs) 170. Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-81, 3-119, 4-166. Bowling: S Finn 4-0-33-2, J Dernbach 4-0-45-1, S Broad 4-0-36-0, T Bresnan 4-0-35-0, G Swann 4-0-17-1.
England: C Kieswetter c Kohli b Chawla 35, A Hales b Pathan 0, L Wright lbw b Pathan 6, E Morgan b H Singh 2, J Bairstow b Chawla 1, J Buttler b H Singh 11, T Bresnan c Gambhir b H Singh 1, S Broad c Gambhir b Dinda 3, G Swann st Dhoni b H Singh 0, S Finn not out 8, J Dernbach run out 12. Extras: (wd-1) 1. Total: (All out in 14.4 overs) 80. Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-18, 3-39, 4-42, 5-51, 6-54, 7-60, 8-60, 9-60. Bowling: I Pathan 3-0-17-2, L Balaji, 1-0-10-0, A Dinda 2-0-26-1, Harbhajan Singh 4-2-12-4, P Chawla 4-1-13-2, Yuvraj Singh 0.4-0-2-0.