When Shubaman Gill fell for nine, Virat Kohli for a duck, and when later India were restricted to 229/9, England would have fancied their chances for a second win at the 2023 ICC Men’s ODI World Cup.
England, the defending champions, have been desperate to find an upswing in their campaign. They had lost four out of the five games played, and on Sunday, at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow, their bowlers performed admirably.
But when it came time for the run chase, the batters had no answers for the Indian bowling attack led by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
This was the first time in the tournament that the hosts were batting first – and they were tested immediately. Skipper Rohit Sharma’s knock of 87 along with Suryakumar Yadav’s 49 and a 58-ball 39 from KL Rahul got India to 229. But on a day when the Indian batters had an off day, the bowlers continued to thrive.
Shami picked up four wickets, and Bumrah claimed three as India were able to maintain their unbeaten streak in the tournament, bundling England out for 129 and winning by 100 runs.
Bowlers come good
There were no changes in the line-up with Hardik Pandya sitting out again due to his injury. This meant that Shami continued to back up the opening bowlers in Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.
While Siraj continued to leak runs on one end, Shami and Bumrah were at their best once again.
Consistent line and length despite being hit for a four by Dawid Malan was rewarded as the England opener chopped one back onto the stumps and Bumrah celebrated quietly.
Then Joe Root was puzzlingly stuck in his crease and couldn’t negotiate Bumrah’s fuller ball to be trapped leg before wicket the very next ball.
Then came Ben Stokes – England’s messiah. The famed rescuer of many an England innings, back out of retirement was asked to do the impossible once again as England struggled at 33/2.
But there was another player on the field looking to script a fairytale ending for himself – hometown hero, Shami.
Stokes’ innings lasted 10 balls – all facing Shami, who was in rip-roaring form. The ball was swinging in the Lucknow evening and the all-rounder, who was beaten multiple times, didn’t have any answer to the Indian.
Stokes finally decided to take the game to Shami – clearing his front leg to try and hit big, but the southpaw ended up missing it completely as the stumps were shattered. England slipped down to 33/3 and India celebrated with gusto.
In the first ball of his next over, Shami would dismantle Bairstow’s stumps as well and pump the air as the 34-year-old was on course for a hat-trick.
Three of the four wickets Shami picked up had the stumps disturbed with his wicket of Moeen Ali being a thing of beauty – tight line and length drawing the batter into a drive only to edge it behind to the wicketkeeper.
Shami and Bumrah would go on to take seven wickets between the two of them with the former making a strong case for his place in the first 11 even after Pandya’s return.
Kuldeep Yadav would also contribute, picking up the wicket of captain Jos Buttler, as he got one to turn in an incredible fashion and castle the stumps.
Testing times for India
The formula so far for India has been simple – win the toss and field first, allowing for the Indian bowlers to make early inroads and set an easy target for the batters to chase with aplomb. It happened against Australia, Pakistan and even against New Zealand in their last match.
This time in Lucknow, Buttler was on the lucky side and won the toss, and opted to put India to bat first.
Chris Woakes and David Willey constantly tested the Indian openers and the former finally cracked through the defenses of Gill, rattling his stumps. The pressure building on India forced Kohli to make an uncharacteristic error and he ended up holing out to Stokes for his first duck in the format this year.
It was then upto captain Sharma to mount a rescue innings with the Indian opener playing in the same way as he has been throughout the tournament – punishing bad balls and playing great shots out of semi-good ones.
His partnership of 91 runs with Rahul (39) was the backbone of the Indian innings and something of a relief for the packed house in Lucknow.
As Rahul top-edged to Bairstow and Sharma himself holed out to Liam Livingstone off Adil Rashid, India were once again in need of a hero.
At 164/5 in the 37th over, Suryakumar Yadav was in a position that he’s rarely seen himself in this tournament – needing to guide the innings as opposed to assisting. The 33-year-old was able to capitalise on some loose balls from Rashid and use his favourite sweep-shots as India added much needed runs on the board.
It would be a spirited innings from the Mumbai-man who had spirited support from the lower order. The 25-run partnership between Yadav and Bumrah and the ninth-wicket stand of 21 between Kuldeep and Bumrah were crucial in ensuring that India crossed the 200-mark.
With the way the bowlers performed under lights, despite the outfield being laden with dew, India definitely has much to celebrate.
In a way, it was good that the batting depth was exposed fully on Sunday – it showcased a fighting spirit in the entire Indian side, a true team effort in their quest for the title.