India 317 for 5 (Dhawan 98, Rahul 62*, Krunal 58*, Kohli 56, Stokes 3-34) beat England 251 (Bairstow 94, Krishna 4-54, Thakur 3-37) by 66 runs
An ODI of fluctuating fortunes eventually went the way of India by a comfortable margin, giving them a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. The home side were grateful to a pair of fine debuts from Krunal Pandya and Prasidh Krishna, alongside vital contributions from several senior hands, as England collapsed after a dominant start to their chase had seen them reached 135 without loss in the 15th over.
Like Shikhar Dhawan earlier in the day, Jonny Bairstow fell narrowly short of a century – though the openers enjoyed success via starkly different methods. Dhawan set himself to bat for much of the innings, and helped lay the platform in partnership with Virat Kohli, although India needed the spark provided by Krunal’s 26-ball fifty and an unbroken sixth-wicket stand with KL Rahul that yielded 112 from 57 at the death.
Bairstow, meanwhile, epitomises England’s ultra-aggressive approach. He and Jason Roy had seemingly broken the chase by the time the first wicket fell, as the openers hared off to post their 12th century opening stand in ODIs. But England imploded spectacularly in the face of a renewed India bowling effort, led by Krishna and Shardul Thakur, both of whom recovered from expensive initial spells to share seven wickets between them.
Krishna’s dismissal of Roy triggered a period in which England lost two wickets and scored just two runs from the next 17 balls, with Bairstow starved of the strike. It would have been worse had Kohli held on to an outside edge coaxed by Krishna from Eoin Morgan’s first delivery; the India captain immediately acknowledged his mistake by unsuccessfully trying to run out his counterpart, who had seemingly already begun to make his way back to the dressing room.
It was not to prove costly, as England slumped further when Thakur had Bairstow caught splicing a hook towards the deep-midwicket boundary six runs short of a century. Two overs later, Morgan and Jos Buttler were dismissed in the space of four balls from Thakur to leave England 176 for 5 – still well ahead of the required rate, but short on batsmen available to knock them off.
Moeen Ali and Sam Billings patched things up with a stand of 41 before Krishna struck again. There had been doubts about Billings’ continued participation after he left the field with a “sprained collar bone joint” during the India innings, and although passed fit to bat he was unable to reprise his finisher role from the 2020 summer as he chipped tamely to extra cover.
With night-time dew taking effect and Ali finally benefitting from some time in the middle – his only previous England outing all winter had come in the second Chennai Test – England were still in contention. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar extracted Ali with a sharply seaming lifter and Krunal collected a wicket to go with his batting cameo as the tail were rounded up cheaply.
India’s chief concern come the end was a shoulder injury suffered in the field by one of their own, as Shreyas Iyer walked off in obvious pain after getting his hand to a powerful Bairstow drive. Rohit Sharma, too, played no part during England’s innings, having sustained a blow on the elbow from Mark Wood while batting.
The differences in approach to ODI cricket between these two sides were typified by the opening pairs. Dhawan and Sharma have scored almost 5000 runs together at the top of the order for India, but their success has been based upon steady accumulation early on before cracking on once set. Here, after being inserted, they settled for a period of reconnaissance against the new ball, with 15 runs coming from the first six overs, and 39 without loss in the powerplay.
By contrast, after allowing a few sighters from Kumar, the England openers opted for their big spoons. Bairstow was particularly belligerent, accelerating from 6 off 18 as England plundered the powerplay for 89 runs; he greeted the arrival of Kuldeep Yadav in the 12th over by clubbing him for four and six, raising a 40-ball fifty and England’s 100 from consecutive deliveries.
India had taken until the 24th over to reach three figures, and they pushed a see-sawing innings beyond 300 only thanks to the efforts of Krunal and Rahul, who came together with the team on 205 for 5. The elder Pandya struck five of his first 14 balls for fours and added a couple of towering sixes for good measure on the way to the joint-fastest fifty on ODI debut – a milestone he celebrated with a thump of the helmet and a look to the skies.
Krunal’s cap had been presented before play by Hardik Pandya and the brothers, who lost their father and mentor in January, shared another emotional embrace at the mid-innings interval.
India had seemingly ground their way into the ascendancy at 169 for 1, with Dhawan and Kohli motoring along ominously during a century stand. But the return of Wood, who had bowled a sharp opening spell, saw Kohli taken on the deep-midwicket boundary – making it 42 innings (and 16 fifties) since his last hundred – as England re-established their early stranglehold.
Stokes, who was playing his first ODI since the 2019 World Cup final, claimed three wickets including that of Dhawan, who pulled low into the hands of midwicket with his hundred beckoning. Iyer also departed attempting to hit Wood over the top, and with Hardik Pandya steering Stokes to slip India were in danger of falling short on a good surface.
England were largely excellent in the field, bar Ali dropping a straightforward chance in the deep offered by Dhawan on 59, as India lost 4 for 36 just as they were looking to press on. But the death bowling went awry in the face of some savage hitting, Rahul clearing the ropes four times in 62 from 43 as India’s explosive finish ultimately proved enough to thwart their fast-starting opponents.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick