India batsman Hardik Pandya.(PTI)
India batsman Hardik Pandya.(PTI)

India vs England: Late charge lights up India’s ODI ploy

After scoring 112 in the first ODI, and now 126, India reminded once again how good they are not just at chasing (20 wins in 32 matches bowling first from January 2018 till the first ODI against England) but also at setting targets (17 wins in 27 games batting first since 2018).
UPDATED ON MAR 26, 2021 10:30 PM IST

It was a thorough hammering, the kind only a ruthless one-day side like England can inflict. Not all’s lost for India though, considering this is the first time England have ever successfully chased a 300-plus score in India.

If there’s one shining positive for the hosts in the first two ODIs against the best team in the format, it’s India’s ability to produce two consecutive 300+ plus totals batting first. At the heart of this consistency is India’s prolific batting in the last 10 overs-adding 112 runs in the first ODI and 126 runs on Friday.

Bulk of those came from the bat of Rishabh Pant who scored 50 off 19 balls. He had able support. Hardik Pandya added 35 off 16, KL Rahul 24 (16b) and Krunal Pandya 12 (9b). These are reassuring numbers, highlighting India’s batting might not just at chasing (20 wins in 32 matches bowling first from January 2018 till the first ODI against England) but also at setting targets (17 wins in 27 games batting first since 2018).

Chases are easier. With more teams bent on maintaining a high run-rate all the way through like England, captains are looking to chase more than ever.

But what happens when you are put to bat on a good wicket, not knowing what the par-score should be? India have been consistently solving it with a long batting line-up comprising some of the cleanest hitters nurtured over years in the IPL.

Consider the cases of Pant and Hardik. Their better career strike rates batting first (Pant’s is 123.98 as opposed to 88.46 chasing while Hardik’s is 125.21 compared to 108.85 batting second) reflect in their freedom of shot selection. Both have a penchant for the audacious shots. Pant prefers shuffling across the stumps to aim for the leg-side while Hardik has a thing for the ramp shot. But, when they go for the clean hits, the ball clears quite a few rows.

Like on Friday, when there was no stopping Pant as he whipped Ben Stokes for consecutive sixes, over square-leg and long-on, at the start of the 40th over. The second six Hardik hit was off a Sam Curran full toss, ending almost top of the stand at square-leg.

They also know how to accelerate. Unlike Hardik, who hit the first ball he had faced for a six, Pant had batted 21 balls (for 27) before the 40th over. Now, a 100-plus strike rate is still regarded good enough for ODIs; but not for Pant. So, when he decided to switch gears, he didn’t hold back. Six of Pant’s seven sixes came in the last 10 overs. Pandya too hit four over-boundaries.

By the time Pant was dismissed for 77, India had added nearly a hundred runs. In hindsight, India missed out on some more big-hitting in the 19 balls left after Pant’s dismissal. But that doesn’t put to shade Pant and Hardik’s finishing ability.

The counter wouldn’t have been possible without the century-run stand put up by Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, just like in the first ODI where Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan added more than a hundred runs for the second wicket. Then the finishers take over. Rahul and Krunal Pandya in the first ODI, Pant and Hardik in the second, India are getting consistent at making the last 10 overs count.

Since the beginning of 2018, the highest India have scored in the third Powerplay is 127, when they piled up a massive 387 against West Indies in December 2019. Of the 10 wins since 2018 where India ended with at least 300 batting first, nine times have they scored at least 80 in the last 10 overs. That’s a sign of a confident team that doesn’t shy away from batting first.

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