You know by the stunned silence that the rowdy partisan fans in Lucknow can’t believe their rotten luck. India’s talisman Virat Kohli, arguably the best ODI player to be in top form at the World Cup, fell for a duck facing nine slick deliveries.
It got worse for those on the terraces when Shreyas Iyer was dismissed soon after unbeaten India slumped to 40-for 3 against a once-inept England, who suddenly woke up from their slumber in edge of elimination.
This could not be scripted with hosts India expected to wipe out an England team who know their title defense is over. It looks like they will play a little bit more though with a little known rule that has emerged that the 2025 Champions Trophy will feature the top seven teams in the World Cup plus host Pakistan.
With that at stake – and perhaps deciding to play with abandon after being completely eliminated – England have returned to their strong campaign. India are on a roll and seem to be heading for a banana skin even though their place in the semis is assured.
Captain Rohit Sharma, who has been in rousing form, sparked a fightback before the valiant Suryakumar Yadav unleashed a mind-boggling score to lift India to a competitive total of 229 on a hard face.
England are still favoured, but their once mighty batters are but a shadow. After an impressive start from Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow, England fell apart against deceptive seam bowling from Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami which took the fearsome movement off the pitch and exposed the weaknesses of the batters.
In a devastating blow, India’s brilliant paces were destroyed in the top-order as England’s dismal campaign returned after a short break in the field. It was a reminder of India’s strength, as left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav clean bowled England’s glum captain Jos Buttler with a sharp turning delivery that was a stunning exclamation point in different fortunes of the two power teams.
Yadav and veteran left-armer Ravindra Jadeja have been too good for England’s lower order at the top with bite. Having struggled badly earlier in the match, India still won by a stunning 100 runs.
It is easy to get attracted to other competing teams in this tournament. South Africa, the team with a terrible history in the World Cup, has played the most impressively so far. They may not have the heart to want their curse to continue.
Underdogs New Zealand defied the odds again and came close to pulling off the greatest chase in history against Australia to highlight their ability to punch above their weight at World Cups.
Australia, on the other hand, are building steam because they are used to doing big tournaments. Although they have been the undisputed force in this tournament for years, Australia have not won a World Cup in any format in South Asia since 1987. Supporting Australia can sometimes feel like rooting for the Yankees. or the Lakers, but overcoming foreign conditions. will be a crowning achievement for this aging group.
Those were the semi-finalists and challengers in India’s quest for the first ICC trophy in a decade. However, none of the teams look nearly as rounded or formidable as the mighty India, who seem to have all the bases covered.
World Cup pitches – testament to the diversity of such a vast country – are varied but this is not important for India. If it is flat then India’s batting can fight with anyone, as they have the ability to attack dangerously in pace or friendly conditions.
With such defiant fans readying them from the stands, India must inevitably cement their status as the undisputed power of cricket on and off the cricket field.
It’s never easy, of course. The intense blowout of the group stage, which is about to go round with the semi-finalists essentially confirmed, means that the pressure will be largely from India, who will always come through.
When the knockout stage is delayed, India will face the suffocating expectations that have tripped them up so often in the last decade.
Given their poor form so far in this tournament, where they have not been seriously threatened, it feels like an implosion – worse than any of their notable failures – could deny India the inevitable. victory in the World Cup.
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