England rediscover batting verve to keep World Cup bid alive

In arguably their single-most important match since the 2005 Ashes, England held their nerve to keep their World Cup hopes alive with an impressive win against India.

Chris Woakes dismisses KL Rahul of India, caught and bowled, during Englands victory at Edgbaston. Picture: Getty.
Chris Woakes dismisses KL Rahul of India, caught and bowled, during Englands victory at Edgbaston. Picture: Getty.

Successive defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia had put Eoin Morgan’s team on the brink of an early exit from a tournament they have spent four years building towards, but after rediscovering the swagger with the bat that has defined their surge to the top of the world rankings over the past four years, they swept aside a previously-unbeaten India to keep their semi-final hopes in their own hands.

The equation now is simple – beat New Zealand at Durham in their final group game on Wednesday and they are through to the last four.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

After this performance, which bristled with intent in every department, England will believe anything is 
possible.

They were put under intense pressure here but they came through and nobody more impressively than opener Jonny Bairstow who had made headlines for all the wrong reasons in the days leading up to this game, lashing out at supposed malevolent forces – namely Michael Vaughan – apparently willing England to fail in this tournament.

He probably felt that most people inside an Indian-dominated Edgbaston were willing him to fail, too.

Yet the public row with Vaughan and the media storm that fired had the required effect, the player at his best when he has a point to prove scoring a fine century that proved the bedrock of a batting performance in which England were back to their bullying best.

Gone was the fragile batting group who appeared stagestruck during the chases in their previous two defeats. Here was the team who have thrilled crowds around the world in recent years with their high-octane power hitting that has twice set world-record ODI totals.

Conditions helped, the flatter pitch playing into their hands. Yet the fact Joe Root, England’s best batsman, struggled to time the ball during his innings of 44 from 54 balls suggested this wasn’t as flat as some may lead you to believe.

India didn’t make it look like a batsman’s paradise despite the customary half-century by captain Virat Kohli and a fine 102 by opener Rohit Sharma. Indeed, the margin of victory was 31 runs, but the real difference was the six count, which England won 13 to one. Even India’s one came in the final over when the game was lost, MS Dhoni deciding to finally throw caution to the wind when nothing was at stake.

Root followed his tough innings by dropping Sharma – off Jofra Archer – when he was on four. Thankfully it didn’t cost England the game.

The returning Jason Roy was another batsman offered a life, Kohli refusing to go for a caught behind appeal when the opener was on 21 despite replays showing clear contact between glove and the ball sent down by Hardik Pandya. It was a huge slice of luck because the presence of Roy, back from a torn hamstring, was crucial for England. An opening stand of 160 with Bairstow laid the platform for everything that followed for England. Morgan could not have asked for any more in a game they could not afford to lose.

After riding their luck early on against the seam of Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, Roy and Bairstow climbed into India’s spinners, with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal’s first ten overs going for a combined 97.

Ben Stokes then back-loaded the innings after India’s bowlers had fought back, the all-rounder following up scores of 82 and 89 in losing causes with 79 here from 54 balls.

Chris Woakes, bowling three maidens at the start of the India reply and taking the wicket of KL Rahul, then proved crucial. He eventually dismissed Sharma in the 37th over of India’s chase as well as taking a spectacular catch on the boundary to dismiss Rishabh Pant from the bowling of Liam Plunkett, who took three wickets including the prize scalp of Kohli. It was one of several fine performances in an England team who are still alive in this World Cup.