If India’s performance in the second ODI at Kochi was top notch, they were ruthless again against the Englishman on Saturday, at M S Dhoni’s hometown Ranchi. If it were the batsmen who set up India’s win in the Kochi game, this time it was the turn of the bowlers to shine upfront. After winning the toss and electing to send the opposition in first, India kept things tight from the very start even though they did not get an early breakthrough. It was the sense of purpose with which they bowled that was missing in some of the earlier clashes, when they looked lethargic.
The Indian bowlers were suitably rewarded for bowling a tight line and length. Shami Ahmed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar continued to impress and even though they had only wicket each to show, they were the big scalps of the in-form England openers. In that sense, they made the job easier for the latter bowlers. Ishant Sharma, in particular, took full advantage of the pressure built up by the two rookie pacers, and sent back the big fish in form of Kevin Pietersen and later also dismissed the well-set Joe Root.
Also impressive were the Indian spinners, who ensured the pressure wasn’t eased on the struggling Englishmen batsmen. In the past, Ravindra Jadeja has been the go-after man for opponents. But the left-arm spinner, at present, seems to be at an all-time high. Apart from maintaining a good line and length, he used his variations to great effect against the lower-order England batsmen, who had not answer to his guile. Jadeja beat Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel in the flight, as both ended up playing the wrong line. The Saurashtra all-rounder’s performance in the last couple of games would have pleased the Indian management no end.
The Ranchi ODI also saw Ravichandran Ashwin regaining some of his lost confidence. Buoyed by the fact that England were already under pressure, Ashwin bowled with a sense of self-belief that had been missing from his game in recent matches. The manner in which he dismissed Tim Bresnan, flighting the ball and getting it to turn big time was indicative of the bowler regaining some authority. India need Ashwin to be at his best if they want to win more games, and his spell on Saturday would have gladdened them for sure. Ashwin though needs to continue improving to be a serious force at the international level.
Batting wise, the biggest positive was the return to form of Virat Kohli. He had shown glimpses of the same in the last few games, but at Ranchi he made sure he stayed till the end. It was the kind of assured knock Kohli had been playing for most of last season. Of course, it would have helped had Ajinkya Rahane got some runs and if Gautam Gambhir hadn’t gifted his wicket away yet again. Still, Dhoni’s home crowd would have been super excited to see their hero hit the winning runs.
--By A Cricket Analyst