In the sprawling Gangetic Plains, India’s fertile run in the current World Cup continued unhindered. At the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow on Sunday, the Men in Blue notched their sixth win on the trot, defending 229 for nine with tigerish zeal and keeping it well beyond England’s grasp. India bowled out the visitors for 129 in 34.5 overs and won by 100 runs.
During the chase, England fired its initial volleys through Dawid Malan’s six and four off Mohammed Siraj. Soon from the other end, Siraj’s partner Jasprit Bumrah extracted vengeance, getting one to nip back, and the delivery brushed Malan’s blade and crashed into the stumps. The spearhead got the next one to tail into Joe Root’s pads, and these twin blows left the visitors gasping at the crease.
Mohammed Shami (four for 22) then joined the wicket-taking act. He tied down Ben Stokes, who got tangled in a play-and-miss routine, and the batter’s quest for relief with an expansive shot left his citadel exposed. The ‘rattling timber’ routine got even better when Shami scalped Jonny Bairstow. The ball whispered to the bat before spelling the death knell to the stumps.
With England reduced to 39 for four, its progress became grimmer by the minute as Kuldeep Yadav spun a web. He found England captain Jos Buttler rooted in the crease. Instantaneously, the stumps quivered, and India got busy signing its supremacy on another feverish night while the rival batters departed as if in a tearing rush to catch the local tube back home.
In the afternoon, Rohit Sharma’s men, after five triumphant chasing endeavours in this World Cup, got an opportunity to bat first as Buttler won the toss and elected to field. David Willey bowled a maiden over to Rohit, but once Shubman Gill punched Chris Woakes and the Indian captain slammed a four and six off Willey, normal service seemed to have resumed.
However, Woakes darted one in and castled Gill. The ground lapsed into a millisecond of shock before throwing up a massive roar to greet Virat Kohli. An eerie silence, however, returned a few overs later as the master batter miscued a lofted shot off Willey. With Kohli out for a blob and the England seamers bowling tight, India slipped into a barren phase on a sluggish pitch.
It got worse when Shreyas Iyer mistimed a pull and fell to Woakes. At 40 for three, India found sustenance through Rohit and K.L. Rahul. The Indian skipper survived an lbw distraction on 33, earning a successful review against Mark Wood. He then swept the spinners Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone using conventional and reverse methods, flicked a stunning six off Wood, and lofted Moeen Ali for four.
Rahul tucked into Livingstone before succumbing to Willey, and that terminated the 91-run fourth-wicket partnership. Just as Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav forged a bond, the skipper (87, 101b, 10x4, 3x6) holed out in the deep against Rashid. It was left to Suryakumar (49) and the tail to rustle up some handy runs. This cumulative yield proved to be the distant horizon that England could never reach.
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