On the third anniversary of England’s greatest moment in this format they returned to Lord’s with a performance that might, with a little effort, have sparked hazy memories of that World Cup final win here. Those present might be less likely to tell their grandkids about it in some imagined future, but the transformation of a moderate target into victory by a 100-run margin will be celebrated all the same.
England’s bowlers might not always be able to swing a ball, but sometimes they can turn a game. Reece Topley’s six wickets for 24 runs, with one ball of his 10 overs left unbowled, represent the best bowling figures by an Englishman in the history of this format. Though he ended India’s innings, it was Topley’s bowling with David Willey at its start that transformed the match.
The latter’s opening spell was consistently excellent, even if for most of it all the action came when he was not bowling. His first two overs were maidens, his first five cost just six runs, and two balls later he took the key wicket of Virat Kohli to leave India 31 for four. It was the 12th over and England had turned the tourists’ run chase from a molehill into a mountain.
Topley had already taken the wickets of India’s openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, and Rishabh Pant had dumped Brydon Carse’s second ball of the day straight to mid-on to depart for a duck.
Though Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya brought some stability to India’s innings, neither stayed long enough to turn the tide back in their team’s favour, and on a night when many of the England captain’s decisions brought rapid reward, their partnership was broken when Topley returned in the 21st over and Yadav chopped his second delivery into his stumps.
Pandya eventually scored 29 off 44 and Ravindra Jadeja did precisely the same. It was when he fell, inexplicably missing Liam Livingstone’s first ball of the day as it floated towards middle stump, moments after Mohammed Shami had top-edged Topley to mid-on, that England knew the game was theirs.
The home side’s fielding was as sharp as their bowling, and this display was as encouraging as that in Tuesday’s first game of this three-match series had been shambolic. Having once again lost the toss and been ordered to bat their innings might not have been overwhelming but it was at least competent: where after eight overs at the Oval they had been 26 for five, for example, here they were 40 without loss.
But if India don’t get you with swing and seam, they will come for you with spin. Yuzvendra Chahal was their key bowler here, taking four key wickets and leaking just 47 runs in his 10 overs, while Jadeja quietly bowled his five overs without taking any wickets, but while conceding only 17.
At some point England will clamber out of the shadow of 2019, but back at the site of that triumph and with a top six that has since been changed only by the arrival of and the departure of the retired Eoin Morgan, that time has not yet arrived.
But there was more than just a coincidence of scheduling to link the two games. The match circumstances could hardly have been more different, but while on that day in 2019 none of England’s top four really got going – for all that Jonny Bairstow got into the 30s – the captain fell cheaply and England found themselves 86 for four, here none of the top four really got going – for all that Bairstow got into the 30s – the captain fell cheaply and England found themselves 87 for four.
They were saved then by the partnership of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, but neither really contributed here. Stokes’s innings was entirely defined by reverse sweeps to Chahal, two of which were nailed for four and one fatefully missed.
That ball went on to hit his back leg in front of middle stump to give the umpire the most straightforward of decisions and England’s subsequent review was entirely without merit. The Test captain’s refusal to depart despite the overwhelming hopelessness of his position and until left with absolutely no choice but to do so was positively Johnsonian.
Stokes was not alone in finding Chahal’s variations of pace and line troublesome. Though he only occasionally threatened the stumps he managed to bowl Bairstow and snare Joe Root lbw, while Moeen Ali mistimed an attempt to slog-sweep a ball that drifted towards him at just under 45mph and heaved it to deep midwicket.
Willey’s contribution with the bat, with two fours and two sixes in his 41, was vital in bringing England to a total that looked slightly under par, but his best work was still to come.
July 15, 2022 at 02:06AM Simon Burnton at Lord’s