India lost their first match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup when they went down to England by 31 runs. However, the final figure was irrelevant, India conceded defeat once Woakes pulled off an excellent catch in the deep to send Rishabh Pant back, with over 10 overs left in the game.
What followed was a bizarre period of play with Indian batsmen looking to knock singles and try to survive till the end. A display that left most onlookers scratching their heads, and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly (on air) absolutely livid.
In their chase of England’s 338, India lost KL Rahul early and spent the next 10 overs playing cautiously, very cautiously.
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli took their time to settle down and let the asking rate balloon over 8. However, gradually they grew into the innings and some really attractive shots flew from both ends as they tried to catch up to the required rate.
Just when England were starting to get worried, their middle overs expert Liam Plunkett provided the vital breakthrough by removing Kohli. Rohit Sharma went on to complete his 100 but fell shortly afterwards to the same bowler while trying to accelerate the scoring.
With Pant and Pandya in there, Indian fans were still hopeful and they were in good spirits when the duo started finding the boundary regularly, with Pandya hitting 3 fours in succession off the excellent Woakes. However that was as good as it was going to get for India. Pant tried his trademark falling over to the off-side pull which was taken on the boundary by a diving Chris Woakes, and that was the end of the Indian resistance.
At this stage, India was only slightly behind England in their innings, and a chase was still on, but the remaining batsmen had other ideas. After one hit down the ground, new batsman Dhoni tried looking for only singles as the required rate kept increasing. Pandya kept thrashing the ball powerfully but kept smashing it to Long On and Long Off for singles.
Pandya tried to hit a boundary at last but holed out to Long On bringing Jadhav in. At this stage India needed 72 from 31 balls, an equation that doesn’t faze lower middle order batsmen in the T20 age. However, there was no intent at all from the two batsmen in the middle as they kept looking only for 1s.
English bowlers were bowling slow cutters throughout this period and there was no attempt to put them off their game. England were happy bowling 6 off cutters an over, Indian batsmen were happy taking 4-5 singles per over.
The target was forgotten, the fans were confused, the commentators were clueless as to what was happening.
Just to rub salt into the wounds, Dhoni showed in the last over that he can hit those fast bowlers for a boundary, and then started refusing singles with 40 needed off 4 balls for some strange reason.
At no point in the last 10 overs India tried to go for the target. While chasing 339 for a win, most teams will take 100 from last 10 with 6 wickets in hand but apparently it was an impossible target for India so they concentrated on getting that Not Out at the end.
Virat Kohli spoke about the short square boundary but the Indian batsmen made no effort to try and exploit that short square boundary. It was physically painful to watch those last few overs. We have seen more intent from Rahul Gandhi during an election campaign than from Indian batsmen during the final few overs.
It is not all doom and gloom for India, they are still sitting pretty in the table, they still have the best bowling attack in the competition even though the spinners had an off day against England, they can still win any game as long as Kohli or Rohit Sharma bat 50 overs. However, if those 2 get out early, don’t expect the Indian middle order to chase anything beyond 6 RPO.