England collapsed to 251 all out to hand India a 66 run victory in a rollercoaster first One Day International in Pune.
Coincidentally it was England’s 66, Joe Root, who the tourists missed most as wickets fell regularly during their unsuccessful chase.
England in the driving seat
For quite some time, in both innings, it looked like England would cruise to victory. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow got England off to an explosive start chasing 317, causing Virat Kohli to rotate through his bowling options as boundaries rained down upon the Indian fielders. Bairstow in particular was brutal in the powerplay, just one off a half century after he drove the last ball of the tenth over for four. Roy was no slouch at the other end as he racked up another score in the 40s- eight boundaries including a monstrous six- before being caught at point as he slashed a drive through the air leaving England 135/1.
At this stage the tourists still looked in cruise control, with plenty of wickets and big hitting to come, and so far ahead of the run rate it wasn’t even in the rear mirror. But the chase rather stalled and wickets fell at regular intervals with England never getting going. By the time their innings came to a rather pitiful close it was easy to wonder what might have been had Root been in at first drop to provide a steadying presence to England’s assault on a target well within their reach.
The tourists elected to field having won the toss, Ben Stokes the pick of England’s attack with three wickets and an economy of 4.25, and would have felt the total they restricted Kohli’s side to was well within their reach.
India start slowly
It could have been even better for Eoin Morgan’s side were it not for an explosive sixth wicket partnership between KL Rahul and debutant Krunal Pandya, who put on 112 runs in less than ten overs to take India to what looked to be a par score.
India’s innings began rather sedately as Rohit Sharma and man of the match Shikhar Dhawan ticked along at four an over for 15 overs- relatively untroubled but not troubling the England bowlers themselves, and rather wasting the powerplay. In the 16th over, England found a breakthrough as Rohit edged a cut behind to Jos Buttler from Stokes, who was playing in an ODI for the first time since the 2019 world cup final.
Dhawan and captain Kohli put together a comparatively more free flowing partnership to put the hosts on course for a score of around 320 at the 30 over mark. But just as the partnership had ticked over 100, Kohli fell as he whipped Mark Wood off the stumps all the way to Moeen Ali at deep midwicket, and suddenly England had a firmer grip on proceedings.
Two overs and 18 runs later and Shreyas Iyer- who later picked up a serious looking shoulder injury fielding in the deep- was back in the hutch as an attempted lofted drive was spliced up in the air to sub Liam Livingstone at deep cover.
And by the 41st over India looked like struggling to reach a competitive total. Stokes struck twice in quick succession, first to remove Dhawan two runs short of his century- a fine, well measured innings nonetheless- and then the dangerous Hardik Pandya for just one. At this stage, with India 205 for five and struggling to get any momentum in their batting, England were well in control.
Krunal and Rahul drag India to par total
However, any thoughts of a leisurely chase were soon put to bed. KL Rahul, who had hardly got going as he saw teammates come and go at the other end, was joined by Krunal and the two set about dismantling England’s attack in the last 9 overs.
Krunal’s blistering 58 off 31 was the fastest ODI half century on debut as everything his bat touched raced away to or flew over the boundary. The all rounder took a particular liking to the pace of Wood who was England’s most expensive bowler- sending him for a series of figure damaging boundaries to give India’s innings a welcome second wind.
Support was more than forthcoming from the other end as Rahul ramped up his own strike rate, reaching his half century off 39 balls. He then added 14 more runs- including a six off Tom Curran as Krunal took Wood around the park- to bring India to a par score that, in the 41st over, looked beyond them.
England throw away perfect start
England still would have fancied the chase- when don’t they?- but after Roy and Bairstow’s explosive start the engine room stuttered. India were inspired by Shardul Thakur as he accounted for three of England’s top four. Prisadh Krishna, another impressive debutant, took the wicket of England’s stopgap number three. Stokes laboured in his first ODI innings in over 18 months, managing just one run off the 11 deliveries he faced before finding extra cover tamely.
Bairstow followed soon after, paying the price for a miscued pull shot, six runs off what would have been one of his finest centuries.. From that point on India never let England out of reach and wrapped the innings up just 42.1 overs after it began in such explosive fashion.
Collapse continues as England slump to 251
Ultimately the game swung towards the hosts when first Morgan, then Buttler, fell to Shardul Thakur in the same over. The second was a tight LBW call- Buttler’s review showed it was umpires call on the stumps- and England’s momentum had visibly dissipated at 176/5. A complete collapse rendering that brilliant opening stand a distant memory. Moeen and Sam Billings threatened to drag England towards the total as they recovered and put on a stand of 41, only for Prasidh to make the latter his third victim of the day. From that point the most pertinent question was how big the margin of defeat would be.
As it turned out the answer came rather quickly. Moeen was gone five overs later and the three remaining wickets within the next five, England putting up as much resistance as a paper bag in the wind. A tale of two innings which were the complete inverse of each other saw India take a 1-0 lead and England repelled.