A career best performance from Yuvraj Singh and the 10th ODI century from former Indian captain MS Dhoni gave India an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 3 match ODI series at Cuttack today. A fighting century from England captain Eoin Morgan went in vain as it was not enough for England to win this must-win game. In a throwback to old times, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, once known as the best finishers of the game, hammered the England bowlers all around the ground, giving the fans some long awaited moments of nostalgia.
However, things were not very rosy at the start of India’s innings. Having been put in to bat, probably because of India’s and particularly Captain Kohli’s impressive record batting second in recent times, India would have wanted to put up a score of more than 300 runs at least on a batting friendly Cuttack wicket. But they soon found themselves in a precarious situation at 25-3 with Kohli himself having a rare failure in this game.
This is when Dhoni and Yuvraj joined hands. The latter looked in imperious form right from the beginning. In the first ODI, it had looked like the anticipation of the short ball had caused his downfall. Sensing his uneasiness with the same, England bowled lots of short deliveries at him. This time, however, Yuvraj had come prepared and the pitch barely had any substantial bounce. In the course of this innings, Yuvraj brought up his first hundred since the 2011 world cup.
While Yuvraj was at his silken best with pulls, cover drives and straight drives, Dhoni was in a murderous mood. In typical Dhoni style, he had a cautious start to the innings, only to explode later on. Even the spider cam was not safe once he got going. Dhoni finished with 134 off 122 balls after having been 6 off 22 balls at one stage. Oddly enough, this was the first time the two of them have got centuries in the same game. The pair put up 256 off 230 deliveries before Yuvraj departed in the 43rd over.
Once Yuvraj was gone after a career-best 150, it was the turn of last game’s Man of the Match, Kedar Jadhav to hammer the England bowlers. Along with some late hitting from Jadhav, Pandya and Jadeja, India managed to get 73 runs in the final 5 overs to get to a mammoth 381-6.
England, however, had lots of reasons to believe they could get this total after India’s chase in the last game. The short boundaries and fast outfield at Cuttack along with their own deep batting line up would certainly have given them hope. After the early loss of Alex Hales, Jason Roy was joined at the crease by the ever so reliable Joe Root. The pair put up a century stand in quick time to keep England in the game. Roy, in particular, looked in ominous form. However, once Root fell to Ashwin trying to step up the pace, it looked like the Indian spinners would strangle the England batting under pressure of the huge chase. Roy, Stokes and Buttler fell in fast succession raising fears of a quick finish to the English challenge in the series.
The long batting line up of England, however, still kept them in the game. England captain Eoin Morgan was joined by the impressive Moeen Ali at 206-5. The pair survived a run out chance and a dropped catch, surprisingly by Ravindra Jadeja, to put up 93 runs in 73 balls. However, just when it looked like England would make a match of it, Moeen Ali perished to the comeback man Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. With 83 still required off 40 balls, India’s death bowlers took charge after a forgettable performance in the first ODI. Bumrah picked up Woakes’ wicket in the very next over. It was going to take a very special effort from England to get a victory from this position. But, Morgan was still in there and kept fighting along with Liam Plunkett to bring the target down to 33 runs off 2 overs. India would feel they were lucky to get Morgan run out at the right moment, just after he got to a well-deserved hundred. With 22 runs required off the last over, Bhuvaneshwar held his nerves to give India the victory by 15 runs.
With the series in the bag already, India will be expected to test their bench strength in what would be their last ODI before the Champions trophy, perhaps bringing in Manish Pandey and Ajinkya Rahane. England meanwhile, will be playing for pride to avoid an ODI whitewash after having lost the test series 4-0. The final match will be played at Eden Gardens on Sunday.