Rohit Sharma
Captain Rohit Sharma held the Indian innings together with a brave knock of 87 when England bowlers maintained tight lines on a difficult pitch. It is certainly one of his best innings in ODI cricket. Image Credit: ANI

After the shaky start against Australia in the first match, India were largely untroubled in the Cricket World Cup 2023. That was until Sunday’s England match in Lucknow. India may have won by 100 runs, but it wasn’t easy. It was the toughest test, and the win is a testament to India’s ability to bounce back from challenging situations.

India’s previous wins were the result of successful chases. England put India to bat for the first time in the tournament, and the batters struggled on a two-paced pitch with the Englishmen bowling tight lines. With the top three batters back in the pavilion in the first powerplay, captain Rohit Sharma was forced to bridle his aggression. His innings may have lacked the usual fluency, but he never missed a chance to lash boundaries. The knock of 87 was topdrawer stuff, considering the challenging conditions with India battling to post a decent score.

How Indian batter battled English bowlers

Some Indian batters were guilty of gifting their wickets. Such extravagance was needless on a pitch that aided the bowlers. Virat Kohli uncharacteristically stepped out for a lofted shot early in the innings, and Shreyas Iyer’s shortball problem persists. KL Rahul’s hard work helped Sharma shore up the Indian innings before an ungainly swipe. If Sharma and Suryakumar were prudent in delaying the assault, India could have posted 30 more than the 229 they managed.

But this is limited-overs cricket; risky shots are a part of the game. If these shots had come off, we wouldn’t be discussing them.

A below-par total meant that India needed early wickets, and they didn’t come until England had 30 runs on the board. And they came off successive balls, including a first-ball duck for Joe Root. This is why Jasprit Bumrah is India’s trump card. Mohammad Shami followed up with a double strike that made the Indian team management wonder why they hadn’t picked the pacer for the early games. Now I know why Australian commentator and former opener Matthew Hayden had been telling India to be ruthless and play Shami.

His best effort was the dismissal of Ben Stokes. England’s Test captain struggled to put bat to the ball before Shami spreadeagled his stumps. High-quality bowling, indeed. India sure won’t drop him again, at least not in the World Cup.

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If Bumrah and Shami are matchwinners, so is Kuldeep Yadav. The left-arm wrist-spinner knocked back England skipper Jos Buttler’s stumps with a classic leg-break that spun a long way. Broadcasters say it deviated by 7.2 degrees as opposed to the previous deliveries that turned only 2.6 degrees. It’s the Ball of the World Cup, they say.

Until now, it was India’s batting might has always attracted attention as they pursued targets with ease. The bowling pack showed they can dismantle the best, although England’s batting has not been at its best. It was a brilliant exhibition of bowling that gives India the courage to go the full distance.

India have beaten Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and England. Now the big challenge comes from South Africa.

On current form, India should make with semifinals with an unbeaten record