India succumbed to their first defeat of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 against England as they went down by 31 runs. More than the defeat itself, it was the manner of defeat which bothered many: including commentator Sourav Ganguly. The former India captain couldn't reason why there was no push at the back end of the 338 run chase.
In the last 10 overs, India needed 104 runs to win but there was no urgency to get there. Rather, there was no attempt to get there either if one goes by the approach employed by MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav. The numbers tell the story: a partnership of 39 runs from 31 balls with 7 dots, 20 singles, 3 fours and a six. When asked later, skipper Virat Kohli said the reason England pulled things off - not just at the death - was due to their "superb bowling".
"We weren't clinical with the bat I suppose, because the wicket was flat. We should have accelerated and gotten closer, but they (England) bowled superbly," said Kohli.
"It's up to discussions with the two guys who were in there. I think MS was trying really hard to get the boundary but it wasn't coming off. They (England) bowled in good areas and the ball was stopping, hence it was difficult to bat towards the end. We have to sit and assess and improve on things in the next game," he went on to add on the closing overs.
In the two matches played at Edgbaston, none of the three teams (New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan) could go beyond 245 runs. The nature of the venue had been slow and assistance for the spinners. That turned on its head on Sunday. India went with two spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav - who went for a combined 160 runs from their 20 overs. In comparison, England played one spinner in Adil Rashid who was more economical by going for 40 runs from six overs. Plenty of credit for that goes to the England seamers for executing the plans well.
One of those plans was to employ the slower ball effectively. On a surface that was slow, England seamers made it even tougher by altering the speed of the ball - especially at the death. MS Dhoni finds it easier to go after a delivery that comes at him with pace and is in the zone - even yorkers for that matter. Reduce the speed and it becomes difficult for him or anyone to go into the attack.
In a statistical look by Cricviz, one way to stop Dhoni is by bowling slow to him. His record suggests he's good at facing them but does get out as well. Against England, Dhoni opted to not go into the attacking mode for the most part. His dismissal rate for deliveries under 120kmph stands at 25.8 as against 47.3 when they are delivered at 120kmph and over. There's a slight scoring rate as well: the veteran scores at 5.38 on deliveries at 120kmph-plus and goes up at 6.36 when they're slower than that.
England were extremely wise in using the slower ball the most in the final 10 overs. Hardik Pandya and Dhoni occupied the crease at that stage and the chase looked possible or at least enough to give England the scare with 10 runs an over required. But England bowlers denied Pandya into going for his shots. In the last 60 balls, England bowled as few as 11 slower deliveries with Chris Woakes slowing the pace down thrice in an over to Pandya. But it was Jofra Archer, who has already made a mark in T20 cricket, who changed the pace of the ball the most. He bowled at least seven slower balls across the Indian inning.
It was a slower delivery (by Woakes) that got rid of the centurion Rohit Sharma. A cutter with fingers rolled over the ball from Woakes deceived the India opener into edging it behind to Jos Buttler.
It didn't help that India were chasing an imposing target - despite being able to curtail the flow of runs at the end - and lost wickets just when they would get going. "If we were clinical with the bat, if the dismissals didn't happen at that time, the result could have been different. We had a decent chance, when they (Pant and Pandya) were in there to strike a few and get closer to the target and trigger panic in their (England) dressing room. We kept losing wickets and that doesn't help in a big chase," admitted Kohli.
If India have something to take from this England loss and work upon ahead of the two remaining league games against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it is the slower ones.
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