A target of 230 has probably never seemed so distant and insurmountable for England in recent times as it looked on Sunday night at the Ekana Cricket Stadium here in Lucknow.
But it was expected that chasing anything over 200 here on the red-soil surface, used twice before in this World Cup, wouldn’t be easy for them considering their style of batting over the last few years on largely placid, true surfaces where scores in excess of 300 were the norm and those in excess of 350 were within reach.
This was a surface that demanded application and discretion in batting, where 100 in 25 overs by India didn’t eventually prove to be bad. It was certainly not a surface for hitting on the rise that the English top-order has been used to and displayed to their own horror.
Both Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami kept a steady head, bowling tight lines and lengths and allowing the pitch and England to do most of the work for them.
Openers Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow had added 30 by the fifth over, and while they had managed to milk runs from Mohammed Siraj, the former got greedy and tried to force some runs off the ever-accurate, deceptively quick Bumrah. However, the ball took an inside edge and rattled the stumps. Joe Root fell on the next ball, leg-before to Bumrah, who speared the ball into the former England captain’s pads.
Root was a bit unhappy probably because there seemed a slight spike on review but the umpire thought it wasn’t off the bat.
The two wickets left the partisan crowd delirious as it cheered every ball that beat the bat.
Skipper Rohit Sharma, realising that Siraj wasn’t the one for this pitch brought in Mohammed Shami, who extracted movement from the pitch and left England No. 4 Ben Stokes’s mind in tatters.
A year ago in the T20 World Cup final in Australia, Stokes had staved off a similar threatening spell from Pakistan’s Naseem Shah and stayed adamant.
On Sunday, he set a woeful example for the others, as he tried to wiggle out of trouble by trying to carve a boundary against a delivery that Shami bowled into him from round the wicket. Stokes missed the line and was bowled as England were reduced to 33/3. Jonny Bairstow then tried to play on the rise against Shami but was bowled playing on to his stumps.
Spinner Kuldeep Yadav then got one to turn sharply and bowled skipper Jos Buttler, who was trying to build a partnership with Moeen Ali.
Once the skipper was dismissed, it was a bridge too far for the defending champions, who lost by a humiliating margin of 100 runs and continue to remain at the bottom of the points table.
Earlier, India may not have reached 229 or even crossed 200 had Rohit Sharma (87 off 101 balls, 10x4s, 3x6s) not shone after taking a review that saved his wicket.
The umpire had ruled him out leg-before off pace bowler Mark Wood in the 16th over, leaving India at 51/4. However, Sharma was saved as the ball was shown missing the stumps.
Sharma got width from a demoralised Wood the next ball and thrashed it to the fence. He was away.
The India skipper added 91 with KL Rahul (39 off 58 balls) for the fourth wicket and another 33 with Suryakumar Yadav (49 off 47) for the fifth, while tailender Bumrah chipped in with his bit and Indian total was provided a touch of respectability.
In the end, however, it proved to be more than respectable against a mentally disintegrated England team.