It felt a little odd. India won the first One-day International after their bowler’s engineered an amazing collapse of the famed England batting line-up.
Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy powered them to 135/0 in just 14.1 overs to start the chase. They were well ahead of the asking rate at that point and they could have cruised to the target if they so chose. But instead, they kept pushing; they kept going for their shots. And when you do that there is always a chance that you’ll lose wickets.
England lost wickets and the match but in the post-match chat, England skipper Eoin Morgan showed no regret.
“Being able to take the attack to the opposition is something that we pride ourselves on.” Morgan had said. “We want to continue to push the envelope in that regard. It’s better for us to lose like this than losing by 10-20 runs playing in a completely different manner that doesn’t suit us. The game is always moving forward, technology and fitness are moving forward, so we need to push hard as we can. It’s important for us to dictate the way we play.
Come the second ODI, England seemed to hold back a little in their chase of India’s total of 336 initially. A bit because they still got 87 runs at the end of the first 15 overs.
Teams generally slow down after this period, try to build a partnership, set up a platform for the big hitters to come. That is what India had done. But England decided to kick things up a gear.
By the end of the 25th over, they had reached 167/1. The pressure had been incessantly applied and India were close to running out of ideas. Then, it got worse.
Stokes got to his fifty off 40 balls. But then the left-hander launched a blistering attack on the Indian bowling and almost single-handed put the result out of question.
In the ten balls he faced after getting to his fifty, Stokes hit 6 sixes, 2 fours, 2 twos and a single. 49 runs in 10 balls. Match over.
6, 6, 6, 1, 6, 4, 2, 6, 6, 2, 4
A mind-boggling 87 runs were scored between the 31st and 35th over. To put things in perspective, India scored 126 runs in the last ten overs of their innings when they were going hell for leather.
England eventually chased down the target with 6.3 overs to spare. That is 336 chased down with 39 balls to spare and they weren’t even going full tilt towards the end.
“The most pleasing thing from us as a team is that we didn’t go away from our values as a team,” said Ben Stokes. “We were bitterly disappointed in the first game with the way we played in the chase, but it was pretty clear that we were going out with the same intent as we always do.”
Stokes added: “Over the years, we have set big totals, we have chased big totals. We don’t really fear too much to be honest. We always go out and try to play as positive as we can.”
In the post-match chat, Virat Kohli argued that they didn’t do too much wrong.
“They totally blew us away during that partnership of Jonny and Ben Stokes. We didn’t even have a chance during that partnership… when two of the best teams in the world collide, one of them is going to win convincingly. Last time we came back. This time England didn’t give us anything at all. It’s quite rare that if you play with that strike rate and give no chances. It shows the quality of batting.”
But there are things that Kohli should be worried about. It was a superb batting wicket doubt but India’s two spinners (Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya) were taken for 156 runs in 16 overs.
As ODI cricket starts to get influenced more and more by T20, the previous limits need to be forgotten. At the start of the T20I series, Kohli had spoken about a ‘freer approach’ in the batting and perhaps that applies to the one-day arena as well.
India’s run-rate (7.40) in the middle overs in T20Is is at the lower end of the spectrum and the same is true for ODIs as well. A conservative old-school approach means India look to build a platform while England just keep going for it. The thinking is simple. If you pack your side with batsmen, use them. There doesn’t need to be a ‘slow’ period; a period where you milk the bowling.
Batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli himself have shown that there are merits to India’s approach too but how can Kohli and Co future-proof their tactics? How can they plan for the future better?
By the time, the next ODI World Cup comes along, tactics might have evolved even more and it will be interesting to see whether India, like world champions England, are prepared to push the envelope. It will be even more interesting to see in what direction Kohli and Co want to push the envelope.
Better to do it now, rather than face disappointment in the big event which will be held in India in 2023.