Already reeling from the heartbreak in football World Cup, England sports received a double blow within 24 hours as India added to their agony with a crushing eight-wicket win in cricket on Thursday.
While the football heroes went down in a blaze of glory in Russia, fighting till the final whistle against Croatia, it was abject surrender by their cricketers at their bastion, Trent Bridge, in the opening One-day international.
Led by inspired performances from left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav and opener Rohit Sharma, India routed the hosts to go one-up in the three-match series.
After Kuldeep again exposed England players’ limitations against spin bowling to bundle them out for 268, Rohit Sharma lit up the arena with a stroke-filled 137 (114 balls; 15 fours, 4 sixes).
He cashed in on the easy conditions to add 167 runs with skipper Virat Kohli (74, 82 balls) in an entertaining second-wicket partnership and made light of the chase. It was Rohit’s second successive hundred, after the sublime unbeaten 100 in the T20 game at Bristol on Sunday.
It was a day when nothing went right for the England team.
The England openers, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy put the new ball bowlers under pressure with a whirlwind 73-run partnership in 10.2 overs. But Kuldeep came up with a repeat show of his opening act in the T20 series at Old Trafford — where he got five wickets — to again terrorise the batsmen with his bag of tricks to claim a six-wicket haul (10-0-25-6).
It was an embarrassing batting effort from Eoin Morgan’s men with only Jos Buttler shining. Once he was out for 53, the rest of the innings caved in.
Perhaps the best example of England’s struggles was Ben Stokes’ innings. The dashing all-rounder scored his slowest half-century, 50 in 102 balls.
In stark contrast to India’s inspired bowling effort, the England players bowled like profligate billionaires, allowing India an easy start to their innings. Shikhar Dhawan threw it away when he needlessly gave the charge to spinner Moeen Ali to be out for 40 (27 balls), but, Rohit and Virat capitalised, exhibiting the full range of their strokes.
The Nottingham crowd had come in droves in the hope of witnessing a batting feast after England’s world record feat in their last game here, against Australia, a few weeks ago. Instead, they were treated to a scintillating show of subcontinental spin. Leg-spin, sliders and googlies at different speeds and trajectories were all on display as Kuldeep mesmerised the batsmen.
The track was a batting beauty as seen when Bairstow and Roy raced to 71 for no loss in 10 overs. But that was till the fun lasted.
When Virat Kohli rested Kuldeep at Bristol for the final T20, it was obvious the captain wanted to shield his main weapon against the smaller, straight boundaries. India wanted to retain the psychological advantage their spinner held over the England batsmen, and the strategy paid off.
On Thursday, there was no holding back as Kohli unleashed Kuldeep immediately after the first powerplay, and the bowler ran through the line-up in four equally effective spells.