Birmingham, Slow and steady was once again the route followed by the English batsmen as they started cautiously and set the perfect platform for a late-innings flourish in their must-win game against India at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Riding on the back of a brilliant 160-run opening stand between centurion Jonny Bairstow (111) and Jason Roy (66), England finished on 337/7 in their 50 overs.
Not to forget the brilliant 54-ball 79 from Ben Stokes at the end of the innings that stole all the limelight from a Mohammed Shami fifer, his maiden in ODIs. In fact, Stokes ensured that Shami’s figures wore a sorry look as he took the attack to the pacer in his last two overs, hammering him to all parts of the ground.
Earlier, with skipper Eoin Morgan winning the toss and deciding to bat first, Roy and Bairstow started cautiously with Shami starting really well. At the end of the first powerplay, England’s score read 47/0 in 10 overs. But that was part of the larger plan as the English batsmen made it clear that they played out the duo of Shami and Jasprit Bumrah before launching into the rest of the bowlers.
On a ground which offered prodigious turn in the game between New Zealand and Pakistan, a change of wicket saw both the Indian spinners returning expensive figures. While Kuldeep Yadav went for 72 runs in his 10 overs, Yuzvendra Chahal was taken for 88 runs from his quota of 10 overs.
Roy’s return, even though he was seen limping in certain stages of his knock, saw Bairstow also gain in confidence as the two batsmen looked at ease against the Indian bowlers after playing out the initial burst from Shami and Bumrah.
Interestingly, Roy got a life on 21 when a fine flick off the gloves was caught down the leg by M.S. Dhoni, only for the umpire to call it a wide. Hardik Pandya was the unfortunate bowler as Dhoni didn’t want a DRS call on it. The life seemed to change the approach of the English batsmen as they started to take the attack to the bowlers.
After that it was a clear case of the England batsmen taking the Indian bowlers to the cleaners before K.L. Rahul’s injury turned out to be a boon in disguise for the Indians. Coming in as a substitute, Ravindra Jadeja picked up a blinder at long-on to send Roy back as the score read 160/1 in the 23rd over. Rahul had landed on his back while attempting a catch at the boundary and didn’t return to field. But an external injury meant he can open the innings if fit.
Bairstow though continued his onslaught with Joe Root for company before Kohli turned back to Shami in desperation. And the pacer answered his captain’s call as he sent back Bairstow, caught by Rishabh Pant in the 32nd over. It was a clear case of a sudden failure to get the scoreboard moving after reaching his century. Having reached the three-figure mark off 90 balls, he ended on 111 off 109 balls.
The Indians did make a silent return into the game with Shami sending back Morgan (1) cheaply, but Root then consolidated with Ben Stokes as the two once again kept the scoreboard moving to ensure that the score read 245/3 after 40 overs with the last 10 overs up for another flourish.
While Shami did send back Root (44), caught by Pandya in the 45th over, Jos Buttler joined Stokes in the middle to ensure that the English innings finished on fifth gear. By the time Shami sent back Buttler for a 8-ball 20, the spark had already been ignited. Stokes too departed in the last over as he looked to paddle Bumrah to the fine-leg stand, but the damage had been done by then.
Brief scores: England: 337/7 in 50 overs (Jonny Bairstow 111, Ben Stokes 79; Mohammed Shami 5/69) vs India