Let’s compare the two innings, shall we? At the halfway mark, England were running away with the game at 180 for 1. India on the other hand, were just 120, but with same number of wickets down. That’s a difference of 60 that India had to manage in the second half of their innings, contending not only with scoreboard pressure but also with England’s by now superior knowledge of exactly what to bowl on a wicket that was holding up a bit.
In the end, although India outdid England in the second half of the innings in terms of runs, the difference in the first half was enough for the home team to defeat Virat Kohli’s side by 31 and boost their chances of making the semi-finals. This was India’s first defeat in this World Cup, but it will hurt them knowing that they couldn’t chase the total down despite losing only five wickets.
India had realised midway through their bowling innings that the pacers taking pace of the ball was the best option. But England’s strong start allowed them to go through a phase of just scoring 25 runs between overs 27 and 37 and still line up a strong finish towards the end. India’s slow, watchful phase came at the very start of their chase of 338. They came up with 27 for the loss of KL Rahul in the first ten overs, and almost immediately welcomed pressure on themselves. But this was how India functioned. They were happy playing themselves in, giving the Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, their two best players, time to get their eye in.
England, to their benefit, had batted first and had seen the effect of the off-pace deliveries. They employed them without any restraint, and India struggled to get a move on. It saw the duo turn agricultural for their runs. Kohli danced down and lofted Woakes over covers, while Rohit hoicked away after being frustrated to 12 off 31.
But with two great players at the crease, England were always wary. Players such as Kohli and Rohit can break free from even the sturdiest of shackles, and given time, they did. India stepped on the accelerator. Kohli crunched two boundaries with such venom that the sound reverberated like thunder. Rohit got his own in by smashing Plunkett for two boundaries in an over.
The gear moved to the next after the 20 over mark. Rohit suddenly awoke from his slumber and smashed three boundaries back-to-back, while Kohli set himself for another one of those chasing clinics. India reached 146 for 1 when against the run of play, Kohli guided Plunkett to point and gave England a massive opening.
Even if there was a lot of sublime strokeplay in between, Rohit’s innings was underlined by his lack of rhythm. He often swung and hoicked wildly, only to either miss or miscue them to fielder. He scratched on though, keeping his side in the game, if not with the score than with his reputation of going big towards the end at least. He got his 25th ODI hundred off his 106th ball faced, but was out three balls later. From there on, the result looked a formality.
Hardik Pandya tried to change that. He came in at five and raced to 36 off his first 20 balls, giving India a sniff. They still needed an unlikely 95 off 9 overs at that point. England then got their plans for Pandya right. All the deep fielders were put in front of Pandya, and he was bowled only slower cutters. Hit them as hard as he might, Pandya could not find the gap, and eventually holed out for 45 off 33. England closed out the game comfortably from there on, with MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav, bizarrely, playing as if the game was already over.
The England innings was much in contrast. If they needed their batters to step up in this crunch game, their openers certainly got the brief. Jonny Bairstow slammed his first World Cup century, using the shorter boundaries on one side to great effect, and giving India a massive early headache. He was brilliantly complemented by Jason Roy, returning from his injury that saw him miss the last three England games including the two back-to-back losses to Sri Lanka and Australia, who smashed 66 off 57 balls. Their planned attack, they saw off two fine opening spells from India’s frontline opening pair before taking on the others, enabled England to race off to a terrific start. England reached their 50 in the 11th over, then stepped on the gas, notching up their hundred in the 16th and then their 150 in the 21st as India’s spin pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav were taken to the cleaners.
Roy soon fell, to a tremendous diving catch by Ravindra Jadeja at long on, but England hardly lost any momentum as a result. Bairstow, with a point to prove following his pressers accusing the media of waiting for England to lose, went on to bring up his hundred off 90 balls. England had just played 26 overs at that point, and at 183 for 1, were scoring at more than seven runs to the over. The Bairstow hundred should have been the boost in the arm, but it turned out on the contrary.
Shami finally had the better of him, having seen a number of close shaves during his first spell. Then the right-armer bounced out Eoin Morgan to bring India firmly back in the contest. Shami enjoyed a terrific spell off 2 wickets for 3 runs from 3 overs. Ben Stokes however resuscitated England’s momentum with his superb 79 off 54 and give England a total they eventually defended well.
Brief scores: England 337/7 in 50 overs (Jonny Biarstow 111, Stokes 79, Mohammed Shami 5-69, Jasprit Bumrah 1-44) beat India 306/5 in 50 overs (Rohit Sharma 102, Virat Kohli 66, Liam Plunkett 3-55, Chris Woakes 2-58) by 31 runs.