England got back to winning ways in the World Cup with a 31-run win victory against India on Sunday. The result kept the hosts’ dream of qualifying for the semi-finals alive saw India suffer their first defeat of the tournament.

Eoin Morgan and Co, who came into this match on the back of successive defeats by Sri Lanka and reigning champions Australia, made 337/7 after winning the toss. In reply, India finished with 306/5 in 50 overs with Rohit Sharma’s century going in vain.

India were in with a shout in the chase for the most part. Sharma got his third hundred of this World Cup [102 off 109] and captain Virat Kohli notched up his fifth consecutive fifty of the tournament, before being dismissed for 66. For the first time in his ODI career, he failed to convert fifties into hundreds for five straight times.

The two-time champions were in the game till Hardik Pandya was at the crease, but his dismissal in the 45th over marked the beginning of the end for them. India needed 71 runs from 31 balls at that time, which was tough but not impossible.

However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s dodgy run with the bat continued as he ended up remaining not out on 42 off 31. He, along with Kedar Jadhav [12 off 13], showed very little intent of chasing down the total and compelled the commentators to question their approach.

The first half of the match saw Jonny Bairstow hit 111 and all-rounder Ben Stokes score a brisk 79, with India paceman Mohammed Shami taking a career-best 5/69. India’s target of 338 looked a long way off when opener KL Rahul was caught and bowled for a duck by Chris Woakes.

Sharma, however, should have fallen for four but Joe Root dropped a routine catch at second slip following an edge off fast bowler Jofra Archer [2/58 off 10]. Kohli duly completed his fifth successive fifty of the tournament and shared a second-wicket partnership of 138 with Sharma.

But just as the duo were upping the run-rate, Kohli fell for 66 when he sliced recalled paceman Liam Plunkett [3/55 off 10] to backward point.

Kohli made a tentative start against Archer, jerking his head out of the way of a sharply rising delivery and edging the next ball for an unconvincing four.

But the ball after saw the star batsman drive Archer to the cover boundary in textbook fashion – a shot greeted with roars of approval from the overwhelmingly India-supporting crowd who had turned Edgbaston into a ‘home’ ground for Kohli’s men.

Kohli hit six fours in a 59-ball fifty, with Sharma getting there in 65 balls when he lofted leg-spinner Adil Rashid over extra cover for his ninth four.

Sharma completed his third century of this World Cup, after scores of 122 not out against South Africa and 140 against Pakistan, in 106 balls with 15 fours. But the pressure of the chase told when he was caught behind off a Woakes off-cutter to leave India 198/3 in the 37th over.

Rishabh Pant [32 off 29] and Pandya [45 off 33] threatened to take the game away from England but neither of the hard-hitting batsmen could convert their starts. This was Pant’s first World Cup match, after replacing Vijay Shankar in the XI, and the left-hander failed to make the No.4 position his own.

Bairstow walks the talk

Earlier, Bairstow and the recalled Jason Roy [66], returning after missing three matches with a torn hamstring, shared a first-wicket stand of 160 – the highest opening partnership of the tournament.

Pre-tournament favourites England, looking to win the World Cup for the first time, had badly missed Roy.

The Surrey star, however, was quickly into his stride, with the Roy chopping his second ball from Shami for four.

Bairstow, involved in a pre-match spat with former England captain Michael Vaughan after suggesting pundits wanted England to lose, twice saw big inside edges miss the stumps.

Roy could have been out on 21 when Pandya appealed for a caught behind down the legside off his fourth delivery. But umpire Aleem Dar signalled a wide instead and Kohli opted against a review, although replays suggested the ball had touched Roy’s glove.

Roy reached fifty in just 41 balls before, on 66, he was well caught by substitute Ravindra Jadeja at long-on. A single off Pandya saw Bairstow to a 90 ball-hundred, including eight fours and six sixes, before he carved Shami to deep cover.

Ben Stokes provided the late fireworks for England after Shami’s double-strike in his second spell. Stokes’ 54-ball 79 proved crucial in England recovering from the middle over slump, to finish with what was a match-winning total.

[Inputs from AFP]