Yesterday’s intriguing decider at Headlingley was a complete letdown if you’re a neutral. Fortunately, I’m about as neutral as Fox News. Therefore the fact the decider proved to be a cross between a walk in the park and a piece of cake (hence the title above) was extremely sweet … a bit like eating a Victoria sponge as one strolls through Kew.
The victory couldn’t have been more emphatic. And it was all set up by our bowlers for a change. Mark Wood was superb – he can do it you see! – and the spinners did a fantastic job too. Adil Rashid was simply magnificent, and the ripper he produced to dismiss Kohli was possibly the ball of the summer. It was certainly the ball of his career to date. Kohli’s stunned faced was a picture. He looked completely dumbfounded. Much like Jacob Rees Mogg when he saw the Chequers deal I imagine.
The ball that got Kohli was so good because it drifted in late and pitched on that awkward length that made it hard to know whether to go forward or back. The drift was somewhat reminiscent of Shane Warne’s famous Gatting-ball, and it spun almost as viciously – pitching around leg-stump and then clipping the off-stump. In hindsight Kohli probably should have got himself forward, but even then it may have ripped past his out-side edge anyway. The Indian skipper looked lost for words. “Well bowled” would have sufficed.
Rashid was also responsible for a couple of other important wickets that pegged India back. Karthik and Raina might not be big guns but their dismissals really swung momentum England’s way and forced Dhoni to play conservatively once again. David Willey also had a good day with the ball, taking the key wicket of Sharma early on and then bowling a clutch over at the death.
Although an irksome ninth wicket partnership saw India recover slightly to 256 after their 50 overs, this was never likely to bother England’s powerful batting line-up. The only real worry was how we might cope with the spinners, especially as Rashid and Moeen had bowled so well on this dry surface. I needn’t have worried though. Although Kuldeep troubled Eoin Morgan early on, the skipper eventually settled in and played a real captain’s innings.
The real star with the bat, however, was Joe Root. He made his second hundred in the space of a few days and looked every inch the class act he’s always been. Chasing totals around 250 is normally pretty straightforward when one of the top order makes a century and so it proved. Joe just batted sensibly, which was all that was required, and India simply didn’t have the firepower to trouble him. Only AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, and Kohli have better ODI records than England’s star player.
Having said that, India’s seamers will be really kicking themselves. Virat needed his bowlers to start well if they were to have any chance of defending their inadequate total. Instead they served up a miserable buffet of long-hops and half-volleys. It was almost as bad as Martin McCague at Brisbane all those years ago. Vince and Bairstow tucked in with relish and any pressure soon evaporated like a pearl of perspiration on the nape of Eugene Bouchard’s neck.
And that’s where I’ll leave things. With an obscure Wimbledon reference that nobody will get. England will be cock-a-hoop after beating their big rivals and have cemented their status as World Cup favourites. India, on the other hand, have plenty of work to do. One suspects they’ll lose more games that they win against England unless they find another reliable middle-order batsman and some bowlers who can bat. Having a long-tail seems sooooo last millennium.