In his latest video entry from the Oval Cricket Ground in England, our man on the ground Chetan Narula looks ahead to India's must-win match with South Africa on Sunday.
What do you think will happen?
How many teams do you think in this 2017 ICC Champions Trophy can chase 300-plus totals? Maybe two or three teams at best – England, who are in the habit of such scores and then you have India and South Africa who have chased down massive targets. Perhaps, Australia can have a swing at it too.
A lengthy batting order is a factor herein, and thus, common consensus would say that the aforementioned teams could chase down such tall scores with ease. Yet, it was the inexperienced Sri Lankan line-up that became the second team to do the honours in this current tournament.
“To restrict them to 321-6 on that wicket played out really well for us. On these wickets, despite there being grass, 310 or 320 is very much chase-able,” said Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews, who scored an unbeaten 52 to lead his side to a stunning seven-wicket win on Thursday.
That’s the thing about modern-day ODI cricket, even in England. 300 is now par for course on batting beauties, which afford no help to the spinners. Additionally, pacers have found it difficult to produce swing in this tournament so far.
By the way, some of these pitches in England will put the pitches in India to shame. Flat as a road. #CT17— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) June 9, 2017
In that light, almost all teams have faced challenges in picking their bowlers. India have countered this by picking three pacers, one seam-bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya, and just the lone spinner in Ravindra Jadeja.
It worked in Birmingham with aplomb, for there are certain mental machinations at work in any India-Pakistan encounter. But this Sri Lankan team does not have a psychological block against the Men in Blue. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Having lost illustrious batsmen in Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, there is a drive to do better every time they take the field. In fact, their entire batting line-up met with Sangakkara before this game, and took advice from the legendary batsman. Clearly, it worked.
“No one really gave us a chance in this game. I am not sure how the Indian team treated this game, but for us, it was (about) staying alive in the tournament. We had our plans in place against each of their bowlers, and we decided to take them on. We executed our plans well,” said opener Niroshan Dickwella after the game.
At this juncture, you have to look back at what Sri Lanka did in their first game against South Africa. Chasing 300 at the same ground last Saturday, they raced off to 69-1 in 8.2 overs, before Imran Tahir (4-27) applied brakes on the scoring.
They didn’t loiter around at the crease to cope with the leg-spinner however, but kept going hard at him, and ended up losing wickets. This is a young Sri Lankan team, low on experience, but they are ready to make up for it in adventurism.
In similar fashion then, the Sri Lankan batsmen targeted India’s inherent weakness – the fifth bowler. Pandya went for 0-51 in his seven overs, and then they turned attention towards Jadeja, who was carted for 0-36 in his first four-over spell.
The key to the match was the way Kusal Mendis took on Ravindra Jadeja. Those 10 overs were India's bank— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) June 8, 2017
India recognised this aspect, but they had nothing to fight back with. Their pacers had proven ineffective in taking wickets, thanks to a lack of swing. So much so, that Virat Kohli brought on himself and Kedar Jadhav to control the damage.
“I thought we covered it quite well. But you can only play five or six bowlers at the max, with a part-timer as well. It isn’t as if we can go with eight bowling options, and so, if one or two guys have an off day, we have to cope with that as well,” said the Indian skipper.
There are a couple of varying thoughts here, particularly from an Indian point of view.
One, India were perhaps short by a few runs, say 20-25. Even so, that was engineered by Sri Lanka as well. They got three wickets in the middle overs, inclusive of Kohli for a five-ball duck, and as such India could score only 80-odd runs in the middle overs as Shikhar Dhawan (125) and MS Dhoni (63) went about doing a rebuilding job.
Should they have scored a bit quicker? Perhaps, but this, again, isn’t the major reason why the defending champions lost in such stunning fashion.
Evidently then, the other thought is about India’s bowling. In hindsight, as Kohli put it, picking Ashwin would have been the obvious choice. It might well be on Sunday when they face South Africa in a must-win clash.
As far as Thursday’s loss goes, the Indian think-tank picked a bowling combination that they thought would be good enough to defend a target of 322. They weren’t.
Sri Lanka showed up India’s traditional weakness, and sent them back to the drawing board instead, throwing this Champions Trophy wide open.
A 224-run partnership, a record for Bangladesh in ODIs, between Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah (with both scoring centuries) helped the Tigers keep their semi-final hopes alive as they defeated New Zealand by five wickets in the ICC Champions Trophy.
Here, we look at three important moments from the match.
After their bowlers had done a good job of restricting the Kiwis to 265, Bangladesh were banking on a good start by Tamim Iqbal, their leading run-getter in the tournament. The left-hander walked upto the crease on the back of having notched 95 and 128 in his previous matches against Australia and England respectively.
There was a bigger challenge though, as unlike the earlier two games where he revelled on placid pitches, this was a surface that was assisting the pacers.
Tim Southee made it count with a brilliant delivery that swung in slightly after pitching but Tamim played the wrong line and was trapped leg-before-wicket on just the second ball of the innings. The batsman immediately reviewed the decision but there was no respite.
Bangladesh not only lost their best batsman but also their only review option.
In the end though, a brilliant partnership between Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah showed that Bangladesh’s batting has more to it than just Tamim.
The Kiwis appeared to be cruising merrily at 134 for two in the 25th over. But soon Bangladesh regained their footing by restricting the flow of runs as New Zealand could only score 18 in the next five overs.
It meant that the batsmen were desperate for quick runs and it was evident when Williamson dashed for a non-existent run after Ross Taylor turned Shakib Al Hasan to Mosaddek Hossain at short fine-leg.
Mosaddek’s flat throw was wide, but Shakib made a superb collection and turned around to whip the bails off with Williamson more than a yard away from regaining the crease at the non-striker’s end.
The Blackcaps’ innings lost momentum and they struggled to up the ante thereafter.
Kane Williamson last 4 ODI innings:— Broken Cricket (@BrokenCricket) June 9, 2017
Martin Guptill provided a flying start to the Kiwi innings, racing to 30 off 25 balls and looked good for a big knock when Rubel Hossain was introduced into the attack. He began with a pacy over, conceding just one run, but it was in the second where he struck gold by dismissing Guptill.
It was a quicker delivery that came in and trapped Guptill leg-before-wicket. It was a big wicket because it was the best start the Kiwi opener had got in the tournament and with Williamson settling in nicely at the other end the duo could have wreaked havoc on the Bangladesh bowling. But Rubel spoiled their plans by claiming Guptill with the fourth ball he bowled to the batsman.