If you allow your opponents to score 350 runs in 50-over version of cricket and lose 4 wickets for 63 runs in 12th over, your chances of winning the game get vastly reduced. ODI history is replete with instances, where teams chasing victory in similar circumstances have lost on most occasions. But Sunday was another day for Indian cricket. When MS Dhoni scooped a high comfortable catch off an indiscreet shot, India looked in definite trouble against England, who had earlier piled up a massive 350/7 in 50 overs. Virat Kohli was holding one end after the loss of Shikhar Dhawan and watched Lokesh Rahul and Yuvraj Singh leaving him earlier. But loss of Dhoni brought an eerie silence in the stadium. Then walked the local hero Kedar Jadhav and the Pune crowd greeted him with a huge all-round applause. More, because he was their own and they felt it was an honor for all of them that Jadhav represented India. But none of them thought about the difference that Jadhav could make on a chilly Sunday evening in the company of his skipper. Virat Kohli himself was making his first full-time appearance as India captain after Dhoni had relinquished the leadership role from shorter formats as well. In a dream-like scenario that followed, Kohli and Jadhav plundered like two warriors and their 200-run partnership took India to the door of a seemingly improbable victory. When Kohli fell for 122 off 105 balls and Jadhav followed him 18 runs later, India still needed 60 for victory in 61 balls. But Jadeja, Pandya and Ashwin took India home with a 3-wicket victory.
The first ODI between India and England was a run-fest, in which 706 runs were scored in about 7 hours play. But that is an inaccurate description of the classical match played at Pune’s Maharashtra Cricket Stadium. After seeing Virat Kohli’s heroics in the test-series earlier, the crowd expected India to dominate the first ODI of the 3-match series. The start of the match, however, didn’t convey such a possibility. After India won the toss and asked Eoin Morgan’s team to bat first, England progressed merrily, led by opener Jason Roy. Although they lost Alex Hales cheaply, Roy thundered with his shots and England reached 100 in 19th over. After Roy was smartly stumped by Dhoni for 73 off 61 balls, it was Joe Root, who continued with England’s assault of Indian bowlers. With skipper Morgan and Jos Buttler, Root helped England cross 200 long before the 40th over. When Morgan, Buttler and Root departed, there was still Ben Stokes. England continued on rampage with Stokes making a quick-fire 60 off 42 balls with 5 sixes and 2 four. Stokes departed with his team’s score reading 317/6 in 48th over. But next man Moeen Ali continued with big shots and his 28 off 17 balls ensured that England reach 350/7.
Chasing down 351 for victory is no child’s play. There are only handful occasions in ODI history, when such scores have been overhauled. Therefore, when Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan came out to begin India’s chase, not many people would have gambled on India’s win. The asking rate itself was steep from the start and Rahul and Dhawan only made it steeper. Both of them departed to leave India at 24/2 in 6 overs. Meanwhile, Virat Kohli had already come but all he saw was wickets falling on the other side. Preserving wickets was another task that India needed to address besides scoring at a brisk pace. ODI recall Yuvraj began with a six and two fours but that was all he could do before being caught behind off a thin edge. Next man MS Dhoni lasted just 6 balls and India reeled at 63/4 in the 12th over and India still needed 288 for victory. The asking rate had shot up to 7.55 as Kedar Jadhav joined Kohli. The crowd looked resigned to India’s fate but they still greeted home hero Jadhav with a deafening applause.
Very soon, color of the game started changing. The flourish of Kohli’s masterly strokes was aptly complemented by Jadhav’s sledge-hammers and the required run-rate began showing a marked improvement. With solidarity returning to India’s batting, England bowlers panicked and conceded several avoidable runs. England fielders, however, remained as alert as ever but they too couldn’t stop the double-ended destruction of the two Indian batsmen. True, there were risks in the lofted shots that Kohli and Jadhav played but calculated risks are part of cricket. The 200-run partnership between Kohli and Jadhav was broken in 37th over, when Kohli fell to the guile of Ben Stokes’ slower ball. Kohli wanted to loft it to leg-side from well outside his off-stump but the top edge flew for an easy catch for David Willey. After Kohli’s departure, Jadhav continued nonchalantly in the company of new man Ravindra Jadeja, before falling as India’s 6th wicket at 291 in 40th over. Jadhav scored 120 off just 76 balls with 12 fours and 4 sixes during his dominant stay on the crease. Now India were close to the target and later order batsmen played with responsibility. Jadeja’s was the only other wicket that India lost after Jadhav. Hardik Pandya’s unbeaten 40 off 37 balls and Ravichandran Ashwin’s 15 not out off 10, ensured that India reach the victory target with 11 balls left. The winning shot was a huge six from Ashwin and crowd at Pune went berserk. India had registered a truly monumental victory that will forever remain etched in the memory of cricket lovers in India.
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