BIRMINGHAM: It was a big gamble that paid off for England. With their backs firmly against the wall, the hosts needed to go for broke and they did so by fast-tracking opener Jason Roy’s return from an injury. It’s been barely two weeks since the swashbuckling opener tore his hamstring in a game against West Indies, but his comeback, though not 100 per cent fit, worked wonders for England who were one defeat away from disaster. The 31-run win against India here at Edgbaston on Sunday has kept Eoin Morgan & Co.’s semifinal hopes alive. They need to beat New Zealand in their last game to go through. India, on the other hand, have to win one of their two remaining matches to make it to the last four.
Roy’s rushed return not only fetched England runs at a better strike-rate, but also alleviated pressure on his opening partner Jonny Bairstow who put an off-field controversy behind to slam his eighth ODI hundred. Roy (66 off 57 balls) and Bairstow (111 off 109 balls) put on a match-defining stand of 160 runs for the opening wicket to set India a record chase of 337.
India, who have never successfully chased a 300-plus target in World Cup, raised hopes of a sensational win before suffering their first defeat of the tournament. Rohit Sharma’s third century of the 2019 edition and his landmark 25th in ODIs went down the drain. Kohli and Rohit put on 138 runs for the second wicket before the skipper fell on 66, failing to convert his fifty into a triple-figure mark for the fifth consecutive time this World Cup.
Chris Woakes bowled eight dot balls to KL Rahul and then induced a leading edge to dismiss the opener for a duck. Rohit and Kohli diligently staving off the new ball threat of Woakes whose first three overs were maidens to eke out the tournament’s lowest powerplay score of 28 for one. Rohit who was dropped by Joe Root at slips on four grew in confidence as he timed his pull to perfection.
Hardik Pandya (45 off 33 balls) looked fluent and hit Woakes for three consecutive fours in the 39th over. Rishabh Pant who made his Cup debut scored an impressive 29-ball 32. A brilliant catch by Woakes ended Pant’s knock, also the match as a contest. When M.S. Dhoni walked in, India needed 112 runs off 65 balls.
Earlier, a cracking cut and a fierce drive off Mohammed Shami in the opening over of the match gave a clear indication that Roy had walked in with a purpose.
India missed a chance to dismiss him early as Kohli opted not to refer umpire’s on-field decision, but the ultra-edge detected a clear spike on Roy’s gloves before the ball landed in M.S. Dhoni’s gloves. Roy punished India by following it up with a six and a four.
Morgan’s decision to go in with an extra pacer in Liam Plunkett instead of spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali suggested the pitch had some pace in it. Both the Indian spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal (0/88) and Kuldeep Yadav (1/72), had a nightmarish outing. Chahal’s figures were the worst for an Indian in a World Cup....