The sluggish surface, a few intemperate shots and some purposeful bowling that was well backed up by the fielding unit, combined to strangle the formidable Indian batting line-up as England finally put up a show befitting of a defending champion.
While the pitch was always going to be challenging, India had another task to overcome. Having chased in all their previous five matches, the hosts were inserted first after Jos Buttler called it right at the toss. Interestingly, Rohit Sharma (87, 101b, 10×4, 3×6) said he too would have opted to bat had he won the toss just to test themselves. But barring the skipper Suryakumar Yadav (49, 47b, 4×4, 1×6), rest of the specialist batters flunked the test as India settled for 229/9, perhaps 20 runs shorter than they would have felt confident enough to defend.
But given England batters’ mindset, who are short on runs and even shorter on confidence, India can still pull this one off.
Even KL Rahul (39), who had set himself up nicely for a big one, went for a needless heave that resulted in a simple catch off his top edge. That ended the most productive stand of the innings — 91 off 111 balls. The duo’s association had lifted the team out of some serious concern after it had slipped to 40 for three.
Even as Rohit manufactured a few boundaries belying the slow nature of the pitch, his partner Shubman Gill never felt “in”. Chris Woakes soon had his number with the one that nipped back into the right-hander, beating the inside edge en route the stumps.
Virat Kohli was forced into a false stroke after David Willey and Woakes kept him quiet with nagging lengths and lines. Between the dismissals of Gill and Kohli, India scored just one run in 18 balls and that had a definite say in Kohli’s indiscretion.
Shreyas Iyer once again floundered a golden chance to be a hero with a shot completely oblivious to the situation. Though Woakes’ ball was a touch short, the slow nature of pitch meant that timing the ball was always a difficult proposition. His intended pull couldn’t beat Mark Wood at mid-on.
Rohit, however, appeared to be batting on a different surface. With the slow nature of the pitch not allowing him to hit through the lines, the right-hander pulled out an assortment of paddle sweep, reverse sweep, chip over mid-on to keep the score board moving. While he fell on the cusp of another well-deserving hundred, Suryakumar did what he does best. While a little more game awareness from the Mumbaikar, who fell over three overs to spare whil exposing the tail, would have helped, it was encouraging to see him get amongst some runs in a demanding situation.
Rohit c Livingstone b Rashid 87
(101b, 10×4, 3×6)
Gill b Woakes 9
Kohli c Stokes b Willey 0
Iyer c Wood b Woakes 4
Rahul c Baistow b Willey 39
Suryakumar c Woakes b Willey 49
(47b, 4×4, 1×6)
Jadeja lbw Rashid 8
Shami c Buttler b Wood 1
Bumrah (run out) 16
Kuldeep (not out) 9
Extras (B-4, W-3) 7
Total (for 9 wkts, 50 overs) 229
Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Gill), 2-27 (Kohli), 3-40 (Iyer), 4-131 (Rahul), 5-164 (Rohit), 6-182 (Jadeja), 7-183 (Shami), 8-208 (Surya), 9-229 (Bumrah).
Bowling: Willey 10-2-45-3, Woakes 9-1-33-2, Rashid 10-0-35-2, Wood 9-1-46-1, Livingstone 4-1-29-0, Ali 8-0-37-0.
(Published 29 October 2023, 12:35 IST)