Lucknow: The sluggish surface, a few intemperate shots and some purposeful bowling, which was well backed up by the fielding unit, combined to strangle the formidable Indian batting line-up to what was a below par score. But given the English batters’ state of mind — muddled thinking and feet of clay — India managed to maintain their unbeaten record at the ICC Men’s World Cup.
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 by Jos Buttler.
And barring skipper Rohit Sharma (87, 101b, 10×4, 3×6) and Suryakumar Yadav (49, 47b, 4×4, 1×6), the 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 the English batters, who are short on run supply and even shorter on confidence, contrived to snatch their fifth defeat that all but put paid to their title defence. Having posted a 100-run win after dismissing England to 129 in 34.5 overs, India wrested the top position in the table with 12 points here at the Ekana Stadium on Sunday even as reigning champs continued to dwell at the bottom.
The initial fireworks by Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan did raise England’s hopes but Jasprit Bumrah (3/32) and then Mohammed Shami (4/22) combined to hit the visitors so hard that the chase was effectively over inside 10 overs after being reduced to 39/4. They were fast and furious, incisive and probing as English batters felt like rabbits in front of the headlight.
Bumrah set thetone for the mayhem when Malan dragged one on to the stumps. The pacer then caught Joe Root – the batter England would have banked on in these conditions – plumb in front after pinning him deep in the crease with a fat and full delivery.
With two in two, it was the turn of Shami to do an encore.Taking the new ball from Siraj, Shami cleaned up Ben Stokes who made room to slam the ball but missed it completely. In his next over, Shami forced Bairstow to chop one on to his stumps. Euphoria enveloped the Indian camp while panic set in the English dugout.
No one manifested the English mindset more than Buttler who didn’t know how to react to the one that pitched on good length and turned in sharply to rattle the top of his middle stump. With Shami ending a brief resistance from Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone with the first ball of his second spell, India didn’t take much time to perform the final rites.
Earlier, 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 the 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 boardmoving.
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 exposing the tail, would have helped, it was encouraging to see him get amongst some runs in a demanding situation.
(Published 29 October 2023, 15:56 IST)