Collective Effort In Bowling Leads India’s Fightback in Series Opener Against England
India beat England by 66 runs in the series opener at Pune and the credit for the splendid victory should go as much to the bowlers for leading a spirited fightback as the batsmen for setting up a 300-plus target. The England openers gave the visitors a blitzkrieg start putting together 135 in under 15 overs before the Indian bowlers led by the debutant Prasidh Krishna led the team’s fightback picking wickets at regular intervals ultimately dismissing the number one ranked team in the world for 251 in just the 43rd over.
Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy are one of the most destructive opening pairs in the history of ODI cricket and had given England a terrific start annihilating the Indian bowling attack in the first hour of the chase. With the exception of Bhuvneshwar Kumar who was at his restrictive best conceding just 13 runs in his first 4 overs, the rest of the bowlers – pacers and spinners alike were smashed all over the park in Pune.
Prasidh Krishna and Krunal Pandya were hammered for 37 and 36 in their first three overs while Shardul Thakur and Kuldeep Yadav for 22 and 21 in their first two. India needed some magic. Someone had to put their hands up. England were making mince meat of the big target and were in a hurry to go to the hotels.
That inspiration came from the debutant Prasidh Krishna. Despite being tonked around for sixes in his first spell he got the breakthrough when he saw the back of Roy in the 15th over of the innings. Krishna made his debut ten times sweeter by dismissing the dangerous Ben Stokes – promoted to number three – off a fast off-cutter bowled at 142.7 kms per hour getting him caught at extra-cover. Two wickets in two overs against the run of play. India had tasted blood and were not in the mood to relent. The fast bowler from Karnataka and KKR had opened the floodgates for India.
However, England batted deep and needed just two more significant partnerships to see them through. India knew the only way they could win the encounter was by picking wickets. Bairstow was still going great guns and had found an ideal partner in England’s highest scorer in ODI cricket – their skipper Eoin Morgan. The pair had added 32 and put England back on track before the man with a big heart and tremendous propensity to pick wickets – Shardul Thakur returned and completely changed the match on its head. In the space of 10 deliveries, the lively and accurate fast-medium pacer dislodged three English batsmen – Bairstow, Morgan and Jos Buttler! From 80-20 England, the odds had changed to 70-30 India in the space of barely three overs.
Thakur’s dismissal of Morgan seemed to be a well thought out plan as he had got the better of the England captain in a similar manner in IPL 2020 – Thakur banged the ball short outside the off-stump at high pace with the delivery climbing on Morgan who top-edged to the wicket-keeper attempting a pull.
However, England still had enough firepower in their lower-order to see them through. The talented Sam Billings combined with the experienced Moeen Ali and the pair had put together 41 for the sixth-wicket before Krishna returned to get rid of the right-hander with the team score at 217. Just when it seemed like Ali and Sam Curran were getting comfortable at the crease, Bhuvneshwar Kumar got one to bounce a bit more which took the edge of Ali’s bat to Rahul behind the stumps. Krunal Pandya chipped in with the wicket of Sam Curran while Adil Rashid became the second victim of the day of Kumar. Krishna made it a fine win for the hosts getting rid of Tom Curran in the 43rd over. He returned with the best debut for an Indian bowler in ODI cricket.
The bowlers, newcomers and the experienced alike, had combined to lead India’s fightback and rattled the famed English batting line-up which crumbled under pressure. Barring Kuldeep Yadav, everyone had delivered at crucial junctures in the chase, not allowing any England pair, except Bairstow-Roy for the first wicket, to build any significant match-changing partnership. Just when India needed a breakthrough, someone stepped forward and delivered.
It showed the character and resolve of the individuals and their commitment and dedication to the team.
Such team-work was refreshing to see in a bowling unit without the likes of Bumrah, Shami and Chahal and will stand India in good stead in the remainder of the series.