We could’ve had better strategy for Kohli, admits Root
John Stern watches a rampant Indian team brush England’s attack aside during a spectacular run-chase
It was not so much a game of two halves, as a team of two halves. England proved what we already know – that their one-day batting can be as explosive as any in the world but their bowling, on flat pitches and small grounds, can look like cannon fodder.
Captain Eoin Morgan admitted as much before, and after, the three-wicket defeat that was a thrilling, rollercoaster ride for the neutral – not that there were any of those among the 37,000 sea of bright blue inside the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium – but was a cruel, painful loss for England.
“We bowled brilliantly early on but our hope is that as our bowlers become more experienced they can come up with good enough skills,” said Morgan afterwards.
Eyebrows were raised at England’s selection punt to go with Jake Ball ahead of the pacier, more hostile Liam Plunkett, who had recovered from his calf injury.
Morgan admitted that their plan to stop Virat Kohli revolved around getting the Indian skipper off strike and trying to take wickets at the other end.
It sounds fine in theory but when the man at the other end – unsung and almost unknown local boy Kedar Jadhav – smashes a 65-ball hundred, England’s plan starts to look a little onedimensional or almost complacent.
When Kohli had a little pre-match dig at England about them lacking a Plan B, he was actually referring to their gungho batting, the go-hard-or-go-home attitude that has helped them raise the bar time after time in white-ball cricket over the past two years, culminating in a world-record one-day score of 444 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last summer.
But Joe Root, who top-scored with 78 in England’s innings, acknowledged that England might need to revisit their strategies against India’s premier batsman. Root observed that they had a five-over window in which to get their man after MS Dhoni had departed and India were on the brink at 63-4.
“One thing we noticed is that early on he chanced his arm, which you have to, I suppose, to get up near the run rate,” said Root.
“He got one just over third man and it looked like we were going to take a wicket at any stage in that period. In hindsight if we could have had slightly more individual plans for him then that could have been a way to go.”
But the paradox for England is that while their bowling in Indian conditions might be regularly exposed, they are, broadly speaking, performing at their current limit.
Whereas the batting line-up is so powerful and so deep that 350-7 was, also in hindsight, a below-par score.
It might have been their highest total against India and, indeed, England had never failed to defend such a large score before but, as Root admitted, how much is enough?
He said: “If we want to be the best one-day side in the world then the way we are thinking in the dressing room is that we’ve made the highest score in one-day cricket now and we want to get close to it more consistently.
“We are doing it but we want to continue to do it and I suppose games like the other day are a good learning experience because we had three guys get 50-plus but they had two guys get hundreds.
“We are getting better at it but if we want to win and be the best across world cricket then we’ve got to do it a lot. We’ve got the talent but we’ve got to do it more often and make real big hundreds and strive to get three or four guys in the top ten in the world.
In the cold light of day, England’s innings showcased the depth of their batting – they scored 105 off the last eight overs – and their ability to rescue innings from any situation.
But they should not have left themselves so much to do in almost perfect batting conditions.
Painful: England’s Chris Woakes reacts to a boundary during Kohli and Jadhav’s huge stand