A day after England’s loss to Croatia in the FIFA World Cup 2018 semifinals, a cricket match between two strongest ODI teams wasn’t expected to the hit headlines, but fireworks were always on cards given both teams have very explosive batting lineups. The match was played on the same ground where England had scored the highest ever ODI score three weeks ago.
Indian captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to chase on what looked like great batting conditions. England started quickly as usual and absence of two front line bowlers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, meant that Indians didn’t find it easy to stop openers Roy and Bairstow. They were off to a flyer in powerplays before Kohli threw the ball to chinaman Kuldeep who has been in great form on this tour. An ill-fated reverse sweep by Jason Roy in 11th over started the downfall of the England team after that great start.
Root looked absolutely clueless when he was caught plumb in next over of Kuldeep and a good review against Bairstow for what initially looked like ball pitching outside leg meant India had clamped down chances of a big score.
England needed to rebuild after 3 quick losses, however captain Morgan couldn’t check his temptation to play a big shot against Chahal, only to be caught by Raina at midwicket. Kohli removed Kuldeep from attack after a 4 over spell allowing English batsmen Stokes and Buttler to rebuild innings. Together they added 93 runs. Buttler continued his great form and was fluent throughout his innings scoring at more than run a ball. Stokes, on the other hand, was scratchy and found it difficult to get going against all bowlers.
Bringing back Kuldeep brought quick rewards for Indian teams as he dismissed Buttler to a faint edge down the leg in 39th over. England 214-5 by 44th over were hoping for Stokes and Ali get them close to 280 in 50 overs. However, Stokes who had been patient for longer earlier inexplicably decided to go after Kuldeep’s last over only to see his reverse sweep caught inside the circle. Wiley fell in the same over giving 6th wicket to Kuldeep - best haul for a spinner in England.
Pacers failed to create much impact in good batting conditions and England were dismissed for 268 which didn’t look like a challenging score for a good chasing team at any point. Rohit and Dhawan started quickly before Dhawan fell to Moeen Ali as he tried to go after him. Once Kohli was at the crease, chase always looked in control complemented by Rohit’s unnatural attacking batting early in the inning. Sharma displayed a wide range of shots to completely annihilate the weak English bowling. He brought his 100 in just 82 balls and won the game for India in the 41st over after Kohli’s dismissal earlier.
It was an easy win for the Indian team, but Kuldeep was easily the biggest difference between two sides who are occupying top 2 places in the ICC ODI rankings. If England has to compete with this in-form Indian team, they have to quickly find ways to tackle Indian wrist spinners who seem to be on a different zone with their accuracy, guile, flight, pace and skills on display. English bowling will be tested again and if they have to improve their 2019 world cup preparations, they need to seriously look into this department.