Two veteran Indians, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, turned back the clock on Thursday at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, as India prevailed in a tense high-scoring encounter. Yuvraj and Dhoni added a splendid 256 for the fourth wicket, with both of them getting memorable hundreds. Yuvraj hit 150 from 127 balls while Dhoni smashed 134 from 122 balls as India ended up with a mighty 381 for 6. England skipper Eoin Morgan himself came up with a brilliant century of his own. But, the Englishmen just had too much to do in the end, as India got home by 15 runs.
The standout aspect of the Yuvraj-Dhoni partnership was the manner in which they rebuild after a disastrous start. Joining forces at 25 for 3, Yuvraj and Dhoni decided to bring all their experience into play, and take matters into their own hands. The duo took diverse approaches. Yuvraj was hitting the ball well, and decided that he had to be the aggressor. He took on the likes of Ben Stokes, Liam Plunkett and Jake Ball, thus never allowing England to settle after their early strikes. He went on the rampage, and ended up smashing 21 fours and three sixes in his memorable innings.
At the other end, Dhoni as he often does, took his time early on, when England were on top. He played a sequence of dot balls, and did not mind giving the early overs to the bowlers. Of course, it helped that Yuvraj was finding the boundaries with ease at the other end. Dhoni proved to perfect foil for Yuvraj as the duo went about rebuilding the innings. Once settled, and knowing that India were back on track, Dhoni also exploded. While Yuvraj fell after slamming his career-best of 150, Dhoni ensured India went well past 350, hitting 10 fours and six sixes in his hundred.
Cameos from Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, who all hit a six each, ensured India finished with a flourish. The end was a stark contrast to the disastrous start India had after being put into bat. Chris Woakes got England off to a sensational start, sending back Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, and more significantly, Indian skipper Virat Kohli, the dangerman, all within the first five overs of the game. Woakes returned to have Yuvraj caught behind, but by this time India had progressed to 281 and Yuvraj had made his best score. India’s domination continued till the end.
On expected lines, England fought hard. They again lost Alex Hales early, caught behind off Jasprit Bumrah. But, Jason Roy and Joe Root again took on the Indians. The spinners however pegged England back as Root top-edged a sweep off Ravichandran Ashwin for 54 while Roy was foxed by Ravindra Jadeja for 82. If India thought the game was done, they were in for a shock as Morgan played a blinder to take England to the brink. He hit big boundaries against Bumrah, Pandya and Jadhav to keep his team in the hunt till the very end. Moeen Ali’s sparkling fifty was the perfect support act. But, Bhuvneshwar Kumar held his nerve to take India over the line in the tense finish.
--By A Cricket Correspondent