Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes put on an annihilating 175-run-stand for the second wicket as England hammered India black and blue in the second ODI to level the three-match ODI series. Batting first, India, thanks to Rishabh Pant's 40-ball-77 blitz, Hardik's cameo and KL Rahul's ton made 336.
Virat Kohli's intent-less stay in the middle
Virat Kohli missed his century yet again today. There has been a lot of fuss about him not making an international hundred in a long time but that doesn't matter as long as he's scoring runs consistently which he has done. But, today it hurt India's batting when he failed to convert his fifty into a hundred because unlike the first ODI, where the Indian skipper had come out with all guns blazing and had taken the aggressor's role, he started slowly today. Agreed that India had lost two early wickets, but even after the pitch eased for batting and he got into a decent partnership with Rahul, there was hardly any show of intent. Against Moeen, he batted at an SR of 79.2 after facing 24 deliveries, which was perplexing with the offie struggling for a while in ODIs.
It becomes imperative for a batsman to make it count after having taken time and deliveries but Virat failed to capitalize on the start and hence the criticism. His 79-ball-66 at a strike-rate of 83.54 would still have been understandable had KL Rahul played at a good rate but even he was anchoring the innings and in fact, brought up his fifty of 66 deliveries.
The captain himself had admitted that 317 runs wasunder-par score after the last game, still, all that India made in the first 25 overs today was 112 runs. And they bat quite deep with the presence of Shardul Thakur and Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the 8th and 9th slot respectively. So, it was not as if India were short on batting depth either, forcing Kohli to bat a certain way. His batting only put more pressure on the middle-lower-order batsman.
Rishabh Pant revives India's batting
Rishabh Pant, returning to the ODI side after almost one year and three months, walked into the middle in a tricky phase. The Men in Blue were 158 for 3 after 32 overs on a wicket which was flat and needed India to score big after last game had shown that 315-320 won't be enough if not for some freak collapse that too against a world-class English batting. After the start India got, not only Pant needed to score runs but also at a good rate. With KL Rahul already having sealed his spot as the first-choice gloveman, there was more to lose than to gain for the 23-year-old.
But having conquered some pretty demanding situations this year, Pant was no stranger to putting his best albeit, he did it for the first time in a real sense in white-ball cricket in what was arguably his best ODI knock yet. The attacking batsman hammered 77 off merely 40 deliveries with the help of seven maximums and helped revive India's sedate innings and what looked a 310 run-total at most, ended up at 336. As per Cricviz, Pant's knock had an 'Attack Rating of 167 - since 2006, there have only been six Indian half-centuries with a higher Attack Rating."
The most impressive thing was that the knock was effortless. He was trying to play with the fields than just slog it with full might. It was a highly mature and calculated assault. The way he paced his innings, something he has struggled with earlier, was a testament that Pant has come off age in white-ball cricket and given what he brings to the top five is unique, there is no reason why India shouldn't persist with this gun batsman.
Jonny Bairstow's near-perfect knock
Unlike Virat Kohli who failed to capitalize after a slow start, Jonny Bairstow showed how exactly it's done, at least in this game, as he made up for a slow start and shifted gears smoothly without breaking a sweat. From 28 off 37 after 14 overs, which was completely opposite to how he had exploded early on last game, he completed his fifty off 45 deliveries and then brought up his hundred off 95 deliveries. From going passive to aggressive to playing the ball on merit, he kept on shifting gears in whatever way England could have expected him to.
And not to forget, it came at a time when England were missing their skipper Eoin Morgan and Sam Billings today. But that hardly put Bairstow under any pressure and if anything brought the best out of him as he played a well-paced knock and what stood out was the relative ease with which he thwarted all the challenges thrown at him. By the time, he got out on 124 off 112, England were in a commanding position, unlike the ODI series opener.
In the last seven ODI innings, five times the English opener has made 82 or more, twice crossing the 100-run-mark. He has been in a red-hot form not just in the last few innings but the last few years to be counted among one of the best ODI openers in the world. As per Cricviz, Jonny Bairstow's "ODI Average Batting Impact, +6.2, is the highest for any England batsman ever".