powered by

30 January 201517:59 By R Kaushik, Perth

​England battles through to reach tri-series final

India end sojourn win-less, with defence of 200 proving to be a step too far thanks to Buttler, Taylor fifties

​England battles through to reach tri-series final - Cricket News
The pitch at the WACA ground in Perth has the justifiable reputation of being one of the quickest, bounciest surfaces in the world. For more than an hour and a half on Friday (January 30), in the final league fixture of the triangular series, it played true to character. Then, the bounce became unpredictable, the up-and-down nature of the track making for an absorbing, low-scoring contest with fortunes fluctuating wildly as England and India battled for the right to take on Australia in Sunday’s final – on the same surface.

At various stages, it looked as if India’s even 200 would suffice comfortably. Stuart Binny struck crucial blows in the middle stages to build on excellent opening bursts from Mohit Sharma, drafted in for the injured Ishant Sharma, and Mohammed Shami to reduce England to 66 for 5, raising visions of an unlikely Indian victory. As it is, it was Shami’s entertaining 25 during a last-wicket stand of 35 with Mohit that had pushed India to 200, and it looked as if the pace twins would conjure magic with the ball as well.

England, though, had the positivity of Jos Buttler and the industry of James Taylor to bail them out. Ajinkya Rahane, who had held the Indian innings together with a measured 73, missed a golden chance to run Buttler out early in the piece – the batsman was on just 3 with the total 72 for 5 – and once that horse had bolted, England didn’t look back.

Taylor and Buttler had their moments of anxiety, as is inevitable on a track such as this, but this was the kind of surface where you needed some luck. For the most part, though, luck didn’t have much role in their decisive stand of 125. By the time Taylor fell on the pull for 82, England was within 10 of a place in the final. Buttler’s dismissal two runs later for an exhilarating 67 set hearts aflutter among the audience of 7653, but England hung on to scramble to 201 for 7 and a three-wicket win that secured its date with Australia.

India’s faster bowlers seemed to have learned their lessons from watching England bowl. James Anderson was excellent as ever, drawing the batsmen forward, but Chris Woakes, Chris Broad and Steven Finn all erred on the shorter side in their first spells, allowing Rahane and the beleaguered Shikhar Dhawan to play themselves in.

Mohit, by contrast, was fuller and asking probing questions all the time even as both he and Shami cranked up the pace. Both repeatedly touched 140 clicks and over, and the scrambled seam that Mohit employed to good effect accounted for the in-form Ian Bell, who again looked good for a million runs as he lay into Binny, given the new ball for a second game in succession.

Moeen Ali, excellent with the ball as he fed off the continued indiscretion of India’s top order against his off-spin by accounting for Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, was totally tied up, and Taylor hardly put bat on ball as India tightened the screws. Virat Kohli and Rahane were both outstanding in the field, the energy levels high, and England was going nowhere. Something had to give, and it did in the form of Moeen’s wicket, wafting against Axar Patel to pick out Ambati Rayudu at long-off.

Joe Root was smartly snapped up by Binny on his follow-through, Eoin Morgan dragged one to mid-on and Ravi Bopara’s half-cut landed in point’s hands. Binny had taken three wickets in just 19 deliveries during a second spell of 6-0-21-3, and at 66 for 5, England was in a deep, deep hole.

Enter Buttler, with an intent that had singularly been lacking in the English ranks till then. Thanking his stars at the run-out let-off, he played his strokes with abandon but not without prudence, while Taylor also shed his inhibitions and embraced the freedom hitherto lacking. India, determined to give game time to both Patel and Ravindra Jadeja, sorely lacked a third specialist paceman and Taylor and Buttler cashed in gleefully.

Last summer at the same venue, Buttler had taken five catches and made a 43-ball 71 against Australia. He wasn’t quite as sensational this time around, but the impact was greater as he hauled England to the threshold of victory in the company of the pint-sized Taylor, who comprehensively justified his selection ahead of Alex Hales.

Dhawan can also claim to have justified to some extent the faith shown in him by the think-tank. Coming on the back of scores of 2, 1 and 8 and finding fielders queuing up in the slip cordon whenever he came to bat, Dhawan put mind over matter in his most convincing innings to date. He only made 38, but he was excellent with his judgement outside off at the start. Rahane took it upon himself to try and get the board moving, the two men ran brilliantly between the wickets and England managed to keep a lid on the scoring, but the breakthrough wouldn’t come as Rahane and Dhawan brought up India’s highest opening stand in a WACA ODI in 11 outings.

Chris Woakes eventually broke through, Dhawan cutting at a wide delivery without foot movement and under-edging to Buttler. That began a terrible slump. Given that the openers had consumed 121 deliveries, Kohli walked in at No. 3 nearly an hour and a half into the Indian innings but departed in less than a third of that time, shimmying to Moeen and picking up long-off as he tried to go downtown but was undone by the extra bounce.

Raina’s stay was even briefer. In the last game in Brisbane, he had charged and walked past the ball; this time, he charged Moeen and only managed to outside-edge an intended booming drive over the top to backward point. In the space of 56 deliveries, India had lost 3 for 24 to slide to 107 for 3, with more damage to come.

Rayudu became Broad’s first victim of the tournament while Rahane, fluent as can be, fell at the most inopportune moment – in the first over of the Batting Power Play. For the second time in the innings, India had lost wickets in pairs, thereby leaving itself with no momentum to carry into the final 15 overs of their innings.

To compound its woes, Bell picked up two brilliant catches at slip, first flying to his right to evict Binny, then leaping to his left to account for Patel, with Finn the beneficiary on both occasions.