Root, Plunkett steer England to series-leveling win

In the end, Eoin Morgan’s ‘surprising’ decision to bat after winning the toss wasn’t all that bewildering. The hosts read the conditions well, the pitch slowed down as the game progressed, and for a change, England dominated the battle of spinners. As England realised in the previous game, their bang-bang approach to 50-over cricket can have a devastating effect, especially against the Indian spinners. They changed, adopted and, led by Joe Root’s century, constructed a well-paced 322 for 7 before bowling out the visitors for 236 and registering an 86-run win to level the three-match series.

The 323-run target would have been far too menacing for the Indian batting line-up that has wiped off more daunting challenges with rather ease. And for as long as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were occupying the crease, there wasn’t much to bother them. Without having to take any undue risks, they made 49 before Rohit decided to go for a wild swipe. He missed the offcutter completely and was castled. By the end of the Powerplay Dhawan too headed back, slashing a wide delivery to Ben Stokes at backward point. 58 for 2 in 10 overs wasn’t the most ideal start to their chase, but it hadn’t left them in a state of panic either.

But KL Rahul’s dismissal for a duck, a few minutes later, would’ve started the concerns. Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina steadied the innings with a cautious approach. The short boundaries didn’t tease them into anything foolish for most parts. Or it was their own concerns that were creating the demons. Raina scored at a fair clip but looked out of sorts, forever waiting for short balls to be banged into his body. Out of shape but effective, he hung around. And then there was Kohli, who was stunned by Moeen Ali’s first delivery which turned in sharply. And thereafter, for as long as he played the offspinner, he struggled before eventually getting trapped plumb for 45. Rarely has Kohli missed out on going big after getting a start, and never had India successfully chased down a 150+ total in ODIs since 2015 without any of the top three batsmen scoring a fifty.

Kohli and Raina departed in quick space after their 80-run stand. By the time they were out, the pitch had become incredibly slow. Hardik Pandya struggled to connect, so did MS Dhoni. The difference, however, was in the intent. The run rate kept shooting up. By the time Pandya fell, India were left needing 132 runs in exactly half the number of deliveries. Instead of accelerating, Dhoni just dropped anchor. It was such a dour innings that on a day when Dhoni had reached two rare ODI landmarks – 300 catches and 10,000 runs, he was getting booed at the holy centre of cricket – Lord’s. Slow applause of humiliation also followed.

As much as England’s lower middle order, led by David Willey’s quickfire fifty, had made a statement of its batting prowess, India’s lack of depth was exposed. Moeen and Adil Rashid combined well to dry up the runs in the middle overs. They returned 20-0-80-3, outdoing their Indian counterparts. The pressure they applied aided Mark Wood to bag four wickets.

Earlier in the day, England’s batting threatened to follow a script similar from their Trent bridge debacle. After another steady start from the openers, they fell in quick succession after the powerplay to Kuldeep Yadav. The innings was revived and stabilised by Root and Morgan, who took a more conventional approach to ODI batting. Their 103-run stand enabled England to blunt the spinners, and then use the death overs to good effect.

Morgan fell soon after bringing up his half century, slog sweeping a low full to deep mid wicket. His dismissal paved way for a mini collapse as Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen followed soon after. England were reduced from 189 for 2 to 239 for 6 in a period of 11.1 overs. Willey too struggled against Kuldeep at the start but he made up for it with some lusty hitting towards the end. He clobbered five boundaries and a six in his 31-ball 50*, and combined with Root to add 58 runs in the last five overs. In the end, the 81-run stand for the seventh wicket made a massive difference.

Brief Scores: England 322/7 (Joe Root 113*; Eoin Morgan 53; Kuldeep Yadav 3-68, Yuzvendra Chahal 1-43) beat India 236 all out in 50 overs (Suresh Raina 46, Virat Kohli 45; Mark Wood 4-46, Adil Rashid 2-48) by 86 runs.

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