A lopsided contest on the face of it, match number 29 of the ODI World Cup between India and England turned out to be just that. India entered this match 5-0 in the World Cup and joint level with South Africa on 10 points, whereas defending champions England were ten out of ten on the leaderboard with just two points. Jos Buttler won the toss in Lucknow, chose to field, and looked on with pride from behind the stumps as England’s bowlers did well on a tricky surface to keep India to 229 for 9 in 50 overs.
However, chasing 230 under lights and with a bit of dew around proved entirely out of England’s skill level on a tough track. A scoreline of 30 for no loss turned to 39 for 4 in no time as two of the most high-class pace bowlers in the game today shattered England’s already renewed confidence. First, Jasprit Bumrah underlined his status as a magician with the new ball by nipping out Dawid Malan and Joe Root in successive deliveries. Then, Mohammed Shami claimed figures of 2/5 in four overs to end the match as a contest.
Kuldeep Yadav went on to bowl arguably the ball of the tournament to leave Buttler’s stumps in a mess, and when Rohit Sharma went back to Shami for the 24th over and he immediately had Moeen Ali nicking off, England’s abject show slipped further into the abyss. England were bowled out for 129 in 34.5 overs.
Thus, this Indian team underlined why it possesses the best bowling ensemble of the World Cup. Bumrah, Shami and Kuldeep were exceptional under the lights and Ravindra Jadeja did what was expected of him. They knew exactly where to land the ball, how to put doubts in the batmen’s minds and how to counter the dew. England’s psyche was gnawed at, over by over, and left their batsmen feebly poking and pushing. This was, by all accounts, a terrific defense of a poor total.
That India are 6-0 owes almost entirely to their bowlers, who set up the team’s first five victories when they had to chase, and on Sunday in Lucknow when given a low total to defend. Up until this match, each victory had come when India were chasing. The targets in these five matches were 200, 273, 192, 257 and 274. Against England, after India’s worst batting performance so far, it was the bowlers who won the match. If India go on to win the World Cup, it will be because of their bowlers. Make no mistake.
As for England, what has happened to a once ruthless ODI team? Before this loss – a record fifth for England at any World Cup – matters had gotten to such a low point that England’s 50-over cricket was being widely termed as having regressed, with their 2019 World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan, commentating during this tournament, going as far as saying that he had never seen any other sporting team underperform in this manner. Sunday’s result, the first time any England team has lost five matches in a single World Cup, underlines Morgan’s assessment. No defending World Cup team has ever performed this poorly.