India vs England | Takeaways : Virat Kohli’s bowling rotations and England’s faulty middle-over approach

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India vs England | Takeaways : Virat Kohli’s bowling rotations and England’s faulty middle-over approach

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Bastab K Parida

07/12/2018

After Kuldeep Yadav annihilated England single-handedly, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli made the run-chase a formality to give India a 1-0 lead in the ODI series. The game brought England’s flawed approach to the ODI cricket to the fore yet again, which may haunt them in next summer’s World Cup.

Virat Kohli - combining T20 and ODI captaincy in “right” way

India missed their best pacer from the South Africa tour - Jasprit Bumrah, whose unmatched ability in the death overs has been one of India’s biggest strengths in the recent years. His injury meant there was a lot of responsibility on Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who himself missed the match due to a back injury, in the series. In the absence of two pace spearheads, the onus was on the wrist-spinning duo to take the centre stage with some support from the pacers. While Kuldeep Yadav, with figures of 6/25, alone did the job, Kohli should also be credited for rotating the bowlers in a brilliant fashion. 

In the 9th over, the Indian captain brought Yuzvendra Chahal into the attack and followed that up by giving the ball to Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav. Given the fact that the English openers were well set in the middle by then, Kohli threw them an oddball by changing bowlers almost in every two overs. As a result, English batsmen remained unsettled and Kuldeep took the benefit of the same and picked up a six-for today. He was also helped by the fact that English batsmen could never really understood him. 

Secondly, Kohli adopted the horses-for-courses policy as he gave the ball to part-time off-spinner Suresh Raina in the middle overs when two left-handers - Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes - were at the crease. As Raina chipped in with three economical overs, conceding a miserly 8 runs, it allowed Kohli to use the wrist-spinners after the 40th over to restrict the death-over run-flow. It was an interesting and unusual decision from the Indian skipper, especially because of the fact that he has been limited with the kind of resources he has at his disposal. 

In Stokes and Buttler, England find tranquility

Trent Bridge has been the centre of England’s ODI showpiece and the venue where they scored the record-breaking 481 against Australia. However, whenever a quality bowling unit has shown up, the English superstars have surrendered meekly, showing their unilateral approach to ODI cricket. Today, as always, their openers gave them a pretty good start, but once Kuldeep Yadav ran through the top three within a span of three overs, the ghosts of the past appeared to be coming swishing through. Be it the 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final debacle against Pakistan or the slaughter at Lord's where the Proteas reduced them to a measly 20 for 6, the English Blitz appeared to be failing again.

Whenever faced with a half decent bowling attack, the lack of a Plan B was glaringly obvious but today they appeared to have one. When the boundaries dried up for the top three, the pressure got the better of them and Kuldeep was far too intelligent a bowler to not benefit from the same. But, in the process, England showed a different aspect to their batting. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler tried resurrecting the innings to take England to a competitive total. Despite the absence of India's premier pacers, England appeared timid, but after the dismissal of Eoin Morgan in the 20th over, the duo made sure that they could consolidate in the middle-over and launch the fireworks at the death.  

In England's innings, as a whole, there were 148 dot balls and if they could have, at least, restricted that number to 100, they could have been looking at a score above 300 - a total that could have given their bowlers a chance to put the Indian run chase under pressure. Ben Stokes was the culprit of not rotating the strike, but as was shown it was not a really bad approach to back themselves to score 100 runs in the last 10 overs, owing to the big hitters they possess at the deep end of their batting line-up. 

There was room for a more drop-and-run approach from the top-middle order and it certainly didn’t help that they failed to do so. And it is not going to help them in the future either if the all-or-nothing approach is given priority. Today, Buttler and Stokes showed an aspect to their batting that had been lacking a year ago, and if they can mold the game accordingly, they can be a certain contender to take the honours in the series. 

Nothing is coming home

The ongoing India-England series has brought two of the best ODI outfits, who had thrashed everyone who came in their way, head to head and after quite a while, it was expected to be a clash of equals. While England boasted of a 46-19 win-loss record (excluding this game) since their horrendous 2015 World Cup campaign, India too had an impressive 39-19 record to show off. Clearly, the two favourites to win the upcoming quadrennial event in England were about to take centre stage with the cricketing world's eyes glaring down on them. 

However, both the teams’ approach to the game has been drastically different. While England have relied almost exclusively on their batsmen to deliver the wins, India have been more balanced, relying on their bowling as well because their economy rate of 5.33 is third among the top ten teams, while England's is ninth. The most important aspect of England’s terrific ODI form has been their boundary-hitting ability throughout their innings as they clear the ropes, be it aerially or off the outfield, every 8.5 balls, which is better as compared to India's 9.6. But, therein lies the catch. While England is more focused on winning matches through their batting, they are completely neglecting the other aspect, bowling, which is more important for teams like India. 

While the early aggression from England's openers and top-order batsmen allows the rest of the line-up to feed off of them, once the top-order fails, the middle-order crumbles immediately. In contrast, India is not reliant solely on their batting, despite their top-three is arguably one of the best the limited-overs cricket has ever seen. Rohit has three double centuries in the format, and what Kohli can do is known to all and sundry. 

In the bowling department not only do they have argubaly the two best death over bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, in the game, the wrist-spinning duo has added a cutting edge to the team that the English team quite clearly lacks. So, once the tournament that everyone has been eagerly waiting for begins in June next year, it has become clearer that India will start as favourites and for all their majesty in the 50-over format, it will take a monumental effort for England to beat India, especially on a flat deck.

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