As if to prove that format-change in cricket can yield an entirely different outcome, India showed its competitive edge in the 50-over game at Cardiff. They won the second Royal London ODI with a handsome margin after the first was washed out at Bristol, two days ago. The ignominy of the test series debacle was too much to be forgotten in a few days but the man, who made the difference, did not play in the tests. Suresh Raina, therefore, had the advantage of going into the match with an unbridled mindset. Of those, who played in the test series, only Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane chipped in with useful knocks. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli failed again but with Raina firing on all cylinders, India still posted an impressive 304 and bowled England out with almost 12 overs still remaining in the game. The one person, who felt extremely relieved, was Ravi Shastri, the emergency team director for the series. He was seen applauding vigorously and pumped the hands of Indian players. Though, India may feel empowered, they need to be cautious. This is how they started in the test-series; one drawn game followed a momentous victory and then the unmitigated disaster. Regardless, the 133-run mauling would also have given England some jitters. With three matches remaining, it could be an interesting contest from now onwards.
When Alistair Cook won the toss on Wednesday, he promptly put India to bat first. With India’s disastrous batting show in the tests and overcast conditions at Cardiff, Cook was perfectly justified in what he did after the spin of the coin. His reward came early. At the end of seven overs, Indian openers were struggling for just 19 runs at a rate of less than 3. Chris Woakes came on for the eighth and removed Dhawan with his first ball. Dhawan could have checked his shot but nervousness got the better of him. But the worst was to come three balls later. Having completely flopped in the tests, Virat Kohli attempted to redeem himself as he prepared to face Woakes’ fourth ball. He tried aggression as his weapon in trying to lift the bowler on the off-side. Instead, the ball found his bat’s edge and Cook gleefully accepted the dolly. Having collected two ducks already in the test series, it was woeful for Kohli to begin his ODI campaign with another duck. After the quick slide and scare from Anderson’s swinging balls, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane put their heads down and added a very useful 91 in 16 overs.
It was just as well that Suresh Raina arrived when India’s score was quite healthy at 110 in the 24th over. But Raina was rather roughshod to start with. Out of touch with cricket for a while made Raina a bit cheeky at start. His first two boundaries were very inelegant and perhaps unintended strokes and then on 17, he had a lucky escape to survive a strong LBW appeal from Tredwell. After this slippery patch, however, Raina assumed command and hammered the bowlers in his characteristically forceful way of playing cricket. After 95 innings and nearly four years, it was Raina’s first ODI hundred. But it came at a time when India needed it most. Raina completed his 100 off 75 balls and immediately lost his wicket in trying to force Woakes through the off side to be caught by Anderson at boundary. MS Dhoni’s patient half-century also helped in taking the score past 300. With Raina in full flow, India collected 62 in the Powerplay between 35 and 40 overs. Of these Raina scored 42 off 16 balls. Helped further by a sumptuous 29 extras, India finally reached 304/6 in 50 overs and this was not what Cook might have expected.
England began slowly but they didn’t lose a wicket until 54 runs were added by the 11th over. Their innings started late as showers interrupted the game and the D/L rejig made England’s final target 297 in 47 overs. Alistair Cook tried to build the England Innings with Alex Hales but largely he played a second fiddle to his opening partner. After Cook fell LBW for 19 off 33 balls to Mohammed Shami, England lost four more wickets in quick succession to be reduced to 85/5 by the 23rd over. Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan attempted some unorthodox shots to bring about the revival but they too perished to the guile of Jadeja and Ashwin. For England, batting in floodlights proved a bit uneasy. Once Stokes and Morgan left, it was merely a formality as wickets fell at regular intervals. England innings folded at 161 all out in 38.1 overs to give India a 1-0 lead in the ODI series.
The third ODI will be played at Nottingham on August 30 and both teams are likely to adopt different strategies. While India would try to consolidate, England will be determined to stage a comeback in the same way they did in the test series. Ravi Shastri will be a busy man for a few days now.