Eoin Morgan, in speaking after the first ODI defeat, gave the impression that he and England were aghast by the manner in which they had lost the Pune ODI: India, chasing a mammoth 351, were 63-4 and even with Virat Kohli in the middle, the task at hand was an extremely difficult one and I doubt even the most ardent Indian Cricket fan would have fancied the chances of India pulling off a miraculous win.
“What hurts the most is we had India 60-4. Credit to his (Kedar Jadhav‘s) 60-70 ball hundred. We take our hat off to him. He was striking it from ball one and gave us no chances,” a disappointed Morgan said following his side’s three-wicket loss in Pune.
But for the 200-run, fifth-wicket partnership between Kohli and Jadhav, England played well for the most part after being put into bat. 350/7 was a good total, albeit the size of the ground and the docile nature of Pune pitch might have made the visitors not feel entirely comfortable at half-time.
Looking ahead to the Cuttack ODI, which is to be played on Thursday (January 19th, 2017), England should look at the positives from the first ODI and try to replicate them in the second ODI against India.
As aforementioned, the England batsmen, collectively, put up a good show at the MCA Stadium and paced their innings well. Jason Roy batted confidently and delivered a good start; Joe Root was his usual, composed self, and anchored the English innings, and Ben Stokes provided the final flourish to the innings with a 40-ball 62.
The pitch wasn’t overly helpful for the spinners, but England batsmen can also be proud of the way they played Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, in particular, of who they scored 113 runs in 18 overs, for the loss of Roy alone. Ashwin bowled negatively—the Tamilnadu off-spinner was extremely round arm in his delivery and bowled a leg-stump line—we must acknowledge, and probably made life easier for the England batsmen, who, however, managed to score runs off their two tormentors during the Test series and also not fall to their Achilles heel (spin).
Arguably the most important reason why England should feel confident about making a strong comeback in the second ODI in Cuttack, is India continue to be overly reliant on Kohli, who, by way of his 27th ODI hundred, a 105-ball 122, surpassed Sachin Tendulkar’s record (14) for the number of hundreds (15) in successful run chases.
Despite the sensational three-wicket win in the first ODI, India showed more than just traces of their collective batting displays in the ODI series against New Zealand: when Kohli fired, India had no problems with chasing down targets, but when the transcendent chaser failed with the bat, India did not have another batsman to guide the team to a victory. Kohli contributed massively to India’s wins against New Zealand in Dharamsala and Mohali, with 85* and 154* respectively, and the Men in Blue chased down the totals the Blackcaps had set them, quite comfortably. But in Delhi and Ranchi, where Kohli failed to do his routine, India failed to chase down subpar totals like 243 and 261.
Kohli has picked up from where he left off in 2016, which has by far been his most successful calendar year so far, but England can remind themselves that India’s reliance on their new limited-overs skipper is huge. And taking Kohli’s wicket might well clinch England the Cuttack ODI, provided they bat as well as they did in Pune.
Looking beyond these positives, however, England’s bowling looks ineffective as a unit. David Willey posed a lot of problems for the Indian top order in Pune, but the likes of Chris Woakes, Jake Ball and the two spinners, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, didn’t threaten at all. Of course, the pitch for the first ODI was flat and great to bat on, and we cannot be overly critical of the two bowling attacks’ performances. But from England’s perspective, the significant lack of ammunition in the bowling department might well increase the pressure on the batsmen to put up an even bigger score in Cuttack than what they managed in the first ODI in Pune.
Cuttack ODI: India’s Record at Barabati Stadium
India have a good record at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, where the second India v England Paytm ODI is going to be played: in 17 ODIs at this venue, India have won 11 and lost four, with two no results. England have faced India in Cuttack on four occasions so far and have a win-loss ratio of 50:50. From India’s perspective, they have won five of their last six ODIs in Cuttack, with one game in 2013 against Australia getting abandoned without a ball delivered.
During Thursday’s Cuttack ODI between India and England, the focus is likely to be on the conduct of the crowd as much as on the action in the middle. The last time India played an international match at this venue, a T20I against South Africa, the gathered crowd was incensed by India’s poor showing and attempted to disrupt the game by throwing bottles onto the ground. The play had to be suspended for close to an hour, albeit the crowd’s efforts proved futile and the Proteas, after resumption, went on to chase the target of 93 and win by six wickets.
I expect the Cuttack ODI to provide another exciting contest, given that the pitch is expected to be batsmen-friendly once again. When the pitch is good for batting and the odds are stacked against the bowling attacks, the bowling attack which fares better will more often than not help their team come out on top at the end of 100 overs. What’s also worth mentioning is the fact that the Barabati Stadium is of a similar size as the MCA Stadium in Pune, so you can expect another run fest.