Debutants, Dhawan lift India to a 66-run win in the series opener

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23 Mar 2021 | 07:18 AM
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Shubh Aggarwal

Debutants, Dhawan lift India to a 66-run win in the series opener

England collapsed to lose five wickets for 41 runs after a 135-run opening stand between Roy and Bairstow

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First 14 overs - 131 runs, 0 wickets

Rest of the innings - 120 runs, 10 wickets

You live by the sword, you die by it. The expression fits the best on the current England white-ball setup. After a blitzkrieg start which brought the required run-rate down to 5.2 runs per over, England did not attempt to take their foot off the paddle despite losing wickets. 

“This is the way we play and this is the way we will continue to play”, said Eoin Morgan after a night when the England batting line-up was slayed by that same sword. Failing to keep the ball on the ground, England collapsed to lose five top-order wickets for 41 runs, ultimately conceding the ODI series opener by 66 runs. 

India, apart from a rare win in a series opener, walks back with a lot of pride. “One of our sweetest victories in the recent past. We haven’t won good games of ODI cricket for a while”, said Virat Kohli. A comeback at the back of the bowlers is special but staging a comeback twice, both on the back of a couple of debutants is even better. 

With the bat, it was Krunal Pandya who broke the shackles when India struck a rut after the fall of four quick wickets. Later, Prasidh Krishna, in his second spell, picked up two wickets inside eight balls to provide the much-needed opening with the ball. This continues the string of brilliant performances by India debutants this year, irrespective of the format. 

The collapse that could have been ignored

After 24 runs in the first five overs, Jonny Bairstow soon turned the tables around by targeting the debutant, Krishna. He struck him for 22 runs in the sixth over of the innings, all by himself. Jason Roy soon joined the party and the duo put on 85 runs in the next eight overs. 

Having tried all his five bowling options (with Hardik Pandya not bowling), Kohli went back to Krishna with the hopes of a revival in his second spell. The 25-year old didn’t disappoint this time. On the second ball of his spell, he troubled Roy with bounce, fetching his scalp for 46. Two overs later, he cashed in on the pressure built on Ben Stokes - 1 off 11 balls - to strike for the second time. 

Bairstow and Morgan added 32 runs off 35 balls for the third wicket. It felt like the storm will settle soon for the visitors except they were still trying too many shots. The asking rate at the start of the 23rd over was 5.3 when Bairstow sliced Shardul Thakur to deep mid-wicket for 94. In his next over, Thakur struck twice. Morgan, on the first ball, went for an adventurous pull shot, top-edging it behind the stumps. Jos Buttler was then adjudged LBW on one of the few dismissals which can be totally attributed to the brilliance of the bowler. 

The chase was thrown into jeopardy even for England’s deep batting line-up. Sam Billings and Moeen Ali kept the hopes alive with a 41-run stand. Krishna, given the ball for his third spell, struck straightaway with Billings playing an aerial drive to short cover. Bhuvneshwar Kumar ensured England’s chances are dead and buried with scalps of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid with two brilliant deliveries.

Krishna, quite fittingly, took the last wicket, finishing with a four-wicket haul, becoming the first Indian bowler to do so on ODI debut. 

Krunal, Rahul stun England

Before Krishna, there was Krunal Pandya who paired up with KL Rahul to lead India’s recovery with the bat. At the point, he walked in, India had lost four wickets for 36 runs. Rahul, at the other end, was struggling with his timing. At this moment, it was incredible to watch Krunal bat. By the time he had faced 10 deliveries in his ODI career, he already had three boundaries. 

Surprised by the counter-attack, England brought in Rashid to the attack, playing fire with fire. Rahul took the opportunity and deposited the leg-spinner for a six to get his rhythm. Then onwards, there was no stopping them. They added 112 off 57 balls. 

Krunal flicking Tom Curran for a six over square-leg was one of the best strokes of the game. Rahul also matched him stroke for stroke leaving England stunned. Both the batsmen notched up fifties. Krunal completed his off 26 balls, making him the fastest half-centurion on ODI debut. Rahul reached his in 38 balls.

Dhawan, Kohli lay the foundation and the jitters

Earlier in the day, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli laid the platform for India. England’s new-ball pair - Mark Wood and Sam Curran - kept the India openers in check with a relentless display of pace and swing respectively. Although Rohit Sharma and Dhawan saw through the testing phase, Rohit fell to a benign delivery from Stokes. 

A punchy extra-cover drive from Kohli to get his boundary count running suggested there were no demons in the pitch. The duo went about their business in an unhurried manner. Dhawan notched up his fifty in 68 balls. 

While Kohli was in sublime touch right from the beginning, Dhawan picked up as soon as he was dropped by Moeen, on 59 off 77 balls. He raced to 95, going through those 36 runs off only 19 deliveries. There was a clear intent to go after the bowling. 

Citing ominous signs, Morgan brought the pacers back into the attack and Wood delivered with the prized scalp of Kohli, though, via another harmless delivery. Kohli whipped the ball straight down the throat of Moeen who did not make a mistake this time. This started the mini-collapse with Shreyas Iyer skying the ball to sweeper cover for 6 and Dhawan, having slowed down, eventually falling 2 short of his hundred. Hardik Pandya fell for 1 off nine balls, making way for his brother, Krunal to do his thing and take India to what proved to be a match-winning score by the end of the day. 

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England tour of India, 2021EnglandIndiaVirat KohliEoin Joseph Gerard MorganShikhar DhawanMark Andrew WoodBenjamin Andrew StokesMuralikrishna Prasidh KrishnaJonathan Marc BairstowShardul Narendra Thakur

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