London: A brilliant 111 from Jonny Bairstow and a brisk half-century from Ben Stokes was ably supplemented by the bowlers as England sealed a 31- run win over India in their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup clash at Edgbaston.
A quartet of convincing victories had put England into a position where qualification for the semi-finals felt like a formality. Nine days and two defeats later and the mindset in the England camp had changed somewhat.
Suddenly, the hosts and pre-tournament favourites were in real danger of facing a group stage exit. After four years of dominance in ODI cricket, that would represent somewhat of an aberration. Going into today’s game at Edgbaston – where Indian supporters significantly outnumbered England fans – England needed a win and they claimed one.
With Jason Roy fit, Eoin Morgan won the toss and batted first. Roy, raring to go, started the match in emphatic fashion – confidently dispatching the in-form Mohammad Shami to the fence twice in the opening over. Roy’s return seemed to inject a new lease of life into his regular partner Jonny Bairstow. Reunited after more than two weeks apart, the pair played with uncharacteristic caution against the dangerous new ball pair of Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
They bided their time and in what was clearly a premeditated plan, they went after India’s spinners. Roy eventually fell for 66 – he was caught superbly by substitute fielder Ravi Jadeja – while Bairstow built on his good start to record his first World Cup century. Ben Stokes then continued his fine World Cup form to help England post a more than competitive total of 337/7. Mohammad Shami ended with figures of 5/69 from his 10 overs.
England nearly started their defence perfectly. Jofra Archer induced an edge from Rohit Sharma which travelled at a catchable height to Joe Root at second slip. Root couldn’t quite hold on to it and Rohit was given an early life. Chris Woakes managed to pick up the early wicket of KL Rahul but India looked good with both Rohit and Virat Kohli at the crease.
Liam Plunkett broke their crucial stand, sending back Kohli for 66. Rohit, who scored his third hundred of the tournament, was dismissed for 102 with India still needing another 140 runs to win.
Rishabh Pant (32) and Hardik Pandya (45) also got good starts, but Plunkett had other plans. He dismissed both the set batsmen and India eventually fell 31 runs short of the target with the hosts moving up to No.4 in the tournament standings table.