Result: India thrashes England by 133 runs on back of rare Raina century
Fair to say that T20s and the new field restrictions in ODIs have pretty much changed the face of the format. That it is a bowler’s nightmare is already an established fact, but even pitches are being ruled out of the equation now. This is evident from the fact that a team has scored 300+ in the first innings of the last 5 consecutive ODIs in different parts of the world (by West Indies, Sri Lanka, Australia and India). That it was chased down easily by South Africa with 20 balls to spare, and by Pakistan against the Lankans in the first ODI only goes on to prove how 320 is the new 260. This may or may not be beneficial to the viewers—depending on whether they would like to watch runs or wickets—but it sure does render the status of ODI cricket even murkier after the advent of T20 cricket. Other than the World Cup, no real bilateral series is followed with great vigour anymore.
That didn’t dampen the spirits of the Indians at Cardiff though.
Still hurting after an embarrassing 1-3 shutout in the Test Series, many fans giggled when they heard the enthusiasm of Suresh Raina before the series, “We are here to inject new blood and enthusiasm into the team who have already been here for a while.” India hadn’t won an away ODI in their last 10 attempts, and were wrongly considered to be a stellar limited-overs outfit outside India despite their Champions Trophy victory in England last year. As they began to go about matters against England, one realized why the equation was so straightforward.
England still plays ODIs like a shorter test match, while India and most other teams play ODIs like a glorified T20 game. They are a team in utter conflict about their role in this format, led by a captain who isn’t sure he merits a place at the top of the order. They have only one established bowler in Anderson, while the others seem to make up the numbers. Even though they had the Indian top order struggling a bit again (Dhawan and Kohli, as usual), Rohit and Rahane went about building a breezy partnership and cobbling the holes.
The sun rose in the west soon after, with Suresh Raina waltzing in and smashing his first overseas century since 2010. One thing about the guy is that he never feels his way into an innings—you will always find him scoring at a strike rate of 90 irrespective of how comfortable he looks at the crease. In all senses, he injected a much-needed urgency into the Indian batting line-up, who then relied on their usual CSK group of Dhoni (to finish off the innings), the two spinners Ashwin and Jadeja, as well as a bit of Mohit Sharma. Raina and co. took the English bowlers—especially Jordan and Stokes—to the cleaners in the final 15 overs to go at more than 9 an over.
They found their mojo in the format they are World Champions in, thankfully, with only 5 months to go for the World Cup. There are still some problems at the top, but the lambs of Tests become the lions of ODIs in a matter of a week. Jadeja’s nagging darts weren’t a liability anymore, and Ashwin’s loop made him look far more potent when they were forced to score off him.
Shami bowled brilliantly in his opening spell too, removing stalwarts Cook and Bell, as England were squeezed dry by 133 runs. Rain almost played spoilsport but England were always behind the eight-ball as far as the D/L method was concerned. The Oval-shaped ground had its victims at deep midwicket (Rohit, Morgan, Stokes), but the Indian bowlers laughed their way to rare glory.
It is now upto Dhoni to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself in this ODI series. Similarly, they were 1-0 up after 2 matches in the Test series and we all know how that ended. Hopefully, Team India will not turn into Mr. Hyde after doing a favourable Dr. Jekyll impression for starters.