Once the covers came off after a rain-delayed start to reveal a dry low-skidding track, it was clear that India were favourites. Nothing changed during the entire course of the game as India trounced defending champions England by 68 runs. As easy as it appeared, especially during the chase when England capitulated meekly, the win was set up by a crafty knock from Rohit Sharma, skillful exhibition from Suryakumar Yadav, and momentum-seizing cameos from Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja.

Above all, it was Rohit who led the way. With his thought and skill. For a short while, say the first four overs, Rohit Sharma hadn’t got used to the pace and (low) bounce of the pitch. Or rather he was trying to see if he can get away batting in his usual attacking manner. An intended cut burst through the hands of Phil Salt at backward point, a huge miss for England in the second over off Jofra Archer.

There were more failed attempts: a couple of swipes across the line, one took the ball over the slips; a couple of missed cuts as the ball dipped under the flashing blade. It was then that Virat Kohli fell, trying a across-the-line heave that doesn’t come naturally to him and with which he has rarely ever connected.

It stirred Rohit into shifting to Plan B.

In the fifth over as soon as the left-handed Reece Topley went round the stumps, Rohit swung into action. It’s a pitch where a batsman has to do a few adjustments if he wants to hit. Either a walk-down the track like Gary Kirsten or Matthew Hayden without losing the shape or manoeuvring the crease, staying low, and hitting. Standing and driving was fraught with risk. Rohit can charge out but hardly does the more balanced walk-down-and-react stuff. And so he took the other option. He first moved towards off side, crouching a touch to swat a back-of-length ball to the onside boundary. He then moved outside leg to drive Topley to cover boundary. Clearly, he had sensed the need to adapt to the pitch and even re-assess the target to be set.

Rishabh Pant found the danger that awaited batsmen who stayed at their positions and tried to drive through the line. The lack of bounce and slowish pace isn’t conducive for that and unsurprisingly, he miscued the forceful on-drive, splicing it to short midwicket in the last over of the Powerplay, against Sam Curran.

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T20 World Cup: Captain Rohit Sharma India’s captain Rohit Sharma, right, celebrates the run-out of England’s Adil Rashid, on ground, during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup second semifinal cricket match between England and India at the Guyana National Stadium in Providence, Guyana, Thursday, June 27, 2024. (AP/PTI)

England then got Adil Rashid in for the 7th over, and this was potentially going to be the battle of the middle-overs: Rashid vs Rohit and co. Rohit smartly took the sweep option, first unfurling a perfect reverse lap to the third man boundary. He sunk his back leg to the ground almost immediately, ala Usman Khawaja, and reverse-tapped the ball to perfection. Immediately after, predicting the shift in line, he went for the conventional sweep to ping the backward-square-leg boundary.

Just one over later, though, the rains arrived, leading to a 75-minute break in the play. Soon upon resumption, off the last ball of the 11th over, Rohit walloped the legbreak from Liam Livingstone over long-on, and spoke feverishly with Suryakumar Yadav. The score read 86 for 2 in 11 overs, then and suddenly, post that, Indians started to go harder as once again Rohit had reassessed the target.

19 runs came in the 13th over off Sam Curran. Suryakumar started with an absolutely stunning six over point with a deft square-scoop before Rohit went down on his knees to sweep another six. Although Rashid bowled Rohit with a big-turning googly that also kept low, that dismissal would have raised the confidence of Indian spinners in the dugout. Suryakumar too fell, slamming a slower one from Archer down the throat of long-on but with India deciding to demote Shivam Dube, Pandya and Jadeja finished off in some style.

Pandya whip-lashed Archer to point boundary before turning his fury on Jordan in the 18th over. A stunning whiplashed pull sent the ball screaming over wide long-on before he arched his back to crash-land the next over long-off. He fell trying to repeat the shot, but Jadeja would cut and sweep Archer to boundaries in the next over as India finished off on a very good total. And the chase was over in a blink.

For a team that spent months in India from December on such tracks, England batted as if they hadn’t learned anything from those debacles. India were of course too good for them and barring a couple of overs at the start when Jos Buttler showed intent and ability to go along with, there was no contest in the chase.

From the moment Axar Patel came on in the fourth over and Buttler combusted going for a reverse sweep off the first delivery, England nosedived. Perhaps, Buttler could have waited to see the bounce from an Indian spinner, but he was overeager to impose himself from the start. The ball bounced a tad bit more to pop off his gloves for a dolly to Rishabh Pant. English desperation was in the air, and they rolled over without a fight.

You could pick any dismissal for the inherent tragicomedy. Jonny Bairstow’s wild flail to a slider from Axar that knocked out his off stump, Moeen Ali’s reprisal of Tendulkar’s dismissal in the 1996 quarters, setting for a single as the ball rolled off his thigh pad, only for Pant to calmly pick up the ball to whip off the bails. Or Sam Curran and Chris Jordan’s clueless stuck-in-the-crease routine that made them sitting ducks for Kuldeep Yadav’s lbws. Harry Brook, probably. England’s best batsman of spin, looked secure out there until he went for a reverse sweep but could not connect with Kuldeep’s googly. And the comedy act was complete when a confusion with his partner Jofra Archer had Liam Livingstone run out by the proverbial mile. Game and tournament over for England.