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England finally delivered when it mattered most to defeat India at Cricket World Cup

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Walking off with 337 on the board, England had every reason to be happy with their efforts.

Jonny Bairstow had responded to criticism of his comments that some pundits were “waiting for England to fail” with a century, Ben Stokes’ fine form with the bat continued, and Jason Roy looked in great touch as he made 66 on his return from injury.

India required a World Cup record chase to win and even when Joe Root shelled a regulation catch at second slip off Rohit Sharma after Jofra Archer had found the outside edge, the disappointment was short lived as Chris Woakes removed KL Rahul in the next over.

It stayed that way for the next 17 or 18 overs as Rohit and Virat Kohli batted with what appeared a baffling lack of urgency given the size of the total they were chasing. The Edgbaston crowd, dominated by India supporters, had been quietened by England’s batting display and the efforts of their two star batsmen was doing very little to alter that.

There was the occasional boundary, but for the most part they were dealing in singles as the required rate steadily rose. Questions abounded in the media centre, but they all amounted to much the same thing: what are they doing? And do they know something we don’t?

In fact, the answer was that they knew something we all knew: that they are the two top-ranked ODI batsmen in the world and we really should trust that they know exactly what they are doing.

That started to become apparent as those singles became more frequent, ones were turned into twos and the occasional boundaries were suddenly an overly occurrence. After scoring at five-and-a-half-an-over between overs 10 and 20, the required rate had risen to over eight-an-over but that was where it stayed.

With what had initially appeared just the slightest of tweaks, Kohli and Rohit’s sedate stroll had become the most purposeful of strides and caught England flat-footed. Before they knew it, the hosts had become embroiled in a proper contest.

The India supporters too were caught slightly unawares and it even took them a couple of overs to realise the intensity of the game had ratcheted up a few notches and that their side were on the charge.

CRICKET-WC-2019-ENG-IND

It might not have felt like it at the time, certainly not to the fans watching inside the ground or at home with ever increasing nerves as arguably the best white-ball side England have ever had toy the prospect of exiting a home World Cup at the group stage, but this was just what Eoin Morgan’s side needed.

The batting line-up, bolstered by the return of Roy, had shown that they are still capable of racking up big scores, even against top-quality attacks such as India’s, helping to at least partially erase the memory of those two botched chases against Sri Lanka and Australia. The runs were on the board, and plenty of them.

Now it was over to the bowlers, often seen as the poor relations in this England team, to get the side over the line in a pressure game and they did not disappoint.

Liam Plunkett, recalled to the side, was excellent in the middle overs. A shock to no one who has watched England over the past four years and yet opposition batsmen continue to underestimate him. Even the very best of them.

England v India - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Kohli had been majestic, even when it appeared he was treating the game as a glorified net session early on, but Plunkett just has that knack – and what a happy knack it is – of taking wickets. A slower ball outside off, a hint more bounce than expected and a sharp catch at backward point.

That was all it took in the end to see the back of Kohli, the king of the run chase. It all seemed remarkably simple.

Woakes then nicked off Rohit, shortly after the India opener had reached his century, and the pair who had so expertly set up the chase for India were back in the hutch.

As much as those two major scalps aided England’s cause, Rohit and Kohli’s brilliance meant the job was far from over but again there was no panic from the England bowlers. Over the years they must have got used to being overlooked in favour of the more glamorous big-hitting batsmen, they are used to just knuckling down and getting the job done.

Even Archer, the one bowler who most has rivalled the batsmen for attention since coming into the side, seems to have bought into that approach. He ended wicketless but his bowling at the death was everything England could have hoped for: smart, accurate and, as far as the batsmen were concerned, unpredictable.

Having bowled their side to a 31-run win, the bowlers won’t take the headlines. In a strange way that is the result of stopping the charge of Rohit and Kohli before they could inflict any more serious damage. The margin of victory is just a little too big to suggest there was anything nervy about it but nervy it was and England’s bowlers did not flinch.

Job done. Now on to New Zealand.

Topics:
England cricket
India cricket
Eoin Morgan
Cricket
Liam Plunkett
Jason Roy
Ben Stokes
Virat Kohli
Jonny Bairstow

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