Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav once again showed why he is India’s prime bowling weapon this summer, picking up 6/25. Opener Rohit Sharma then hit his second consecutive century against England, following on from his one in the final IT20, to comfortably guide India to an opening eight wicket win in the ODI series.
After being dropped for the final IT20 between the sides, Kuldeep was India’s chief destroyer with the ball after England were put in to bat by Virat Kohli. He achieved only the third ODI five-wicket haul by a visiting spinner in England as he dismissed the majority of England’s top-order.
Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow both made starts for England at the top of the order, sharing a 73-run partnership, but they were uncharacteristically shackled by India’s attack who only allowed the pair to hit one maximum between them.
Kuldeep was introduced for his first over after the end of the first powerplay and Roy promptly reverse-swept the spinner to Umesh Yadav at cover to make the first breakthrough. Then, in his next over, Kuldeep dismissed Joe Root LBW for a meagre three as the 23-year-old spinner continued to baffle England’s top-order. That trend continued when, just four balls later, India made perfect use of DRS to overturn a not out LBW decision against Bairstow and send the in-form batsman packing for 38 off 35 balls (a score which incidentally was exactly the same as Roy’s).
With England now 82/3, Kuldeep had put India in the driving seat and when his spin twin Yuzvendra Chahal dismissed captain Eoin Morgan, caught at mid-wicket for 19, the hosts were in real trouble. However, thanks to their batting depth, they were able to reach a somewhat competitive total.
Ben Stokes, in the side for the injured Alex Hales, and Jos Buttler both passed fifty for England but, like Roy and Bairstow at the top of the order, their boundary options were limited with neither batsman hitting a six and Stokes scoring at an incredibly slow strike-rate of just 48.54.
However, those runs were invaluable and just as it looked like they had set a platform to attack, Kuldeep struck again, dismissing both Buttler and Stokes in quick succession for 53 and 50 respectively to complete his five-wicket haul. With the score at 214/6 it was down to England’s tail and cameos from Moeen Ali (24) Adil Rashid (22) and Liam Plunkett (10) helped England to 268 all out in the final over.
It was a score that was far from intimidating to India, but it was a lot better than it could have been for Morgan’s side. It left England desperate for early wickets with India only needing to score at less than a run a ball to win.
However, they did not get those much-needed early wickets with Shikhar Dhawan in particular accelerating early. He and Sharma reached a fifty partnership after just seven overs before the introduction of Moeen brought England Dhawan’s wicket, skewed to Rashid at third man for 40.
From then on, an Indian win did not look in any doubt as Sharma and captain Kohli comfortably stroked their way to a match-winning partnership of 167. The two Indian stalwarts, who have played 390 ODIs between them, showed all of their class and ability as they stunted an England attack which was always going to struggle to defend their below-par total.
Kohli was eventually dismissed in the 33rd over, stumped by Buttler off Rashid for 75, but it was too little to late for the hosts. Sharma, who had already made his century two overs earlier, and new batsman KL Rahul guided India to a comfortable win with 9.5 overs to spare.
It was an excellent partnership between Sharma and Kohli but without early wickets it was always going to be tough for England’s bowlers. The game was truly won by the exploits of Kuldeep who was excellent. England really missed Alex Hales who was utterly bamboozled by the spinner in the first IT20 but fought back in the second, taking his time to get in before launching an assault and guiding England to a win there.
Joe Root is England’s best player of spin and although it appeared he picked the delivery from Kuldeep that dismissed him, he did not account for the amount of spin that was generated. England will need to work on plans to face Kuldeep and a lot of their batters will need to take a leaf out of Hales’ book when it comes to facing him otherwise it will be a very long summer.