England prance home to victory after convincingly trashing the unbeaten Indian side led by captain Virat Kohli. This makes it, yes you guessed it, his first ever bilateral series loss as Captain. It had to happen but this series puts a number of questions in the side that hope to be answered before the World Cup. The confidence of this English side could not be higher. Beating India at home ahead of the world cup on home soil is the best possible assurance they could’ve asked for.

India started off the 3rd and final ODI in the bilateral series, the series clincher by losing opener Rohit Sharma cheaply and looking really vulnerable to the duo of Willey and the superb Mark Wood . Shikhar Dhawan and captain Kohli at his favorite 3 position stitched together a 70 run partnership before Dhawan fell to a direct hit run-out from star Ben Stokes. A fine display of stroke play, patience and the rotation of strike and attempting to play the right deliveries saw India’s total rise to a respectable 125 for the loss of two wickets at the 24th over. Disaster struck as Karthik was dismissed by Adil Rashid to an inside edge off the bat. Captain and highest scorer Kohli departed after scoring 71 runs and Suresh Raina soon followed-all at the hands of Rashid’s spin. That spell saw India reeling at 158 by the 31st, with half the side back in the pavillion. Hard hitters Dhoni and Pandya kept dealing in singles or dots, barely managing to keep Moeen Ali and Rashid wizardry at bay. Dhoni sent a couple to the fence but was undone by Willey. Cameos from Pandya, Thakur and Kumar took India to a decent 256 at the end of the first innings.

“We were never up to the mark as far as runs were concerned. We had 25-30 runs too little. England were clinical in all departments and thoroughly deserved to win. We need to be at our best against a team like England. The pitch was slow throughout the day which was surprising, not damp, just slow. Against the new ball it was two-paced but slow with the spinners. Haven’t seen pitches like that here before. The bowlers did well, especially their spinners who didn’t get greedy and contained the runs before getting wickets eventually.” was Kohli’s assessment.

The English side started off strong with Bairstow taking the opening Indian Bowlers to the cleaners and Vince keeping steady company at the other side of the wicket. The agressive onslaught was halted as England lost Bairstow (the classic soft dismissal) and James Vince shortly after. Joe Root and Skipper Morgan arrived and were in fine touch from the get go. Shardul Thakur was brutally hammered and when the spinners Chahal and Yadav were brought in, they could not do much. Kohli persisted with them as Root and Morgan raced to their 100 run partnership by the 29th over and they stood at 180 for the loss of two wickets only at the 30 over mark. Chasing the target was a mere formality as they were in cruise control mode. There were no surprises as England led by Joe root-chased the target down by the 44th over with root bringing up his century in style-A boundary of Pandya to bring up his century and win England the match, and clinch player of the series.

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Some would say Vivian Richards esque, but Joe Root and the strong English side have their strong batting going for them. The Bowlers have to pull their weight on home soil, but Leeds was an example of Bowling done right. Skipper Eoin Morgan said,

“Outstanding performance. The tone was set by the bowlers. Wood and Willey were on the money, had their lines and lengths down. The ball swung a little for 4-5 overs. We took our opportunities well whenever we got the chance. We know the conditions here well, and we are happy we took advantage of that. I didn’t think it would be a belter, probably a 300-320 ground, but our spinners today were brilliant.” He added that, “The chase was started by the two openers, and then Joe and I carried on. It’s the guys on my right, my team, that make my decision look good. You’re only as good as your team. Our guys were brilliant. In Trent Bridge we were off, and India punished us, and since then we have done well, and grown as much as we could. It’s satisfying that we learnt over the series, made plans, and executed what we said we’d do. So that builds confidence in the team. We need to be at our best before the World Cup, and remove any glitches from our game.”

While England scalp their latest victim in their incredible run, top heavy India faces glaring holes at the number four spot and reliability lower down before Pandya shows. An option could be to move Pandya up the order, but that’s a temporary fix as that would mean either Rahul or Rahane would be dropped to a position that they cant play.

Legendary opener Sourav Ganguly said that Karthik’s position was better down the order: “Dhoni, Raina, Karthik — very good at 5, 6, 7. India need to find a number 4. I think two of your best batsmen are not being looked after properly. I’m not saying it’s deliberate. Maybe it’s a mistake, maybe when you look at things from the other side you look at it differently. But it’s my opinion, from this side of the ground, (either) of those two (KL Rahul or Ajinkya Rahane) have to play at 4 because it’s too much pressure for Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.”

It is still an experimenting phase, India need to discover a formula that is right for them and quick. As for the bowling, it was appalling. The quality of the English side shredded the Indian unit. To be fair, their best limited overs bowlers Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were out injured.
It may be “coming home” after all, but not the sport one might be thinking about if this fine run keeps up going into the World Cup next summer. Beating a strong side sends some good signals as we await the progress.

 

by Rutvik Bhaskar Perepa
Rutvik Bhaskar Perepa is a student at The University of Manchester working towards a MEng in Mechanical Engineering hoping to be on a placement after Year 3. He has had the privilege to travel around his home country, India and discover the rich heritage and diversity. His personal interests include Food and travel, history, Sport among many others. Often found in discourse on various issues ranging Engineering to Religious Practices, he never shy’s away from being expressive. He believes in being open minded, empathetic and analytical is the key to problems posed on a daily basis.