England’s World Cup dream is still alive after a crucial 31-run victory over India in Birmingham.
The home team made the most of favourable conditions after winning the toss and batting, bouncing back from recent lacklustre efforts to post 7/337. With the ball England was sensational, tying the explosive Indian batsmen down and not even Virat Kohli could see his side home as it finished at 5/306 after 50 overs.
The hosts headed into today’s match needing a win to keep their fate in their own hands after sliding out of the top four when Pakistan beat Afghanistan yesterday. The Poms are now back into fourth spot and can guarantee their place in the semi-finals with a win over New Zealand in their final group game.
A loss would have been catastrophic for England, leaving it needing other results to go its way to avoid the embarrassment of being knocked out of a tournament it was tipped to win. But thanks to a brilliant effort from its top order and some miserly work from the quicks, Eoin Morgan’s men remain in the hunt to claim the country’s first ever World Cup.
After recent humbling losses to Australia and Sri Lanka — following an earlier defeat to Pakistan — it was essentially do or die for England against India and it delivered when it mattered most.
England legend Kevin Pietersen was certainly in a chirpy mood, tweeting a photo of a trophy as the match entered its final overs.
Jason Roy returned from a hamstring injury and got England off to the perfect start, slamming 66 off 57 balls in a 160-run opening partnership with Jonny Bairstow. After complaining in the lead-up to the vital match people want to see England fail, Bairstow produced his best innings of the tournament, clocking up 111 from just 109 deliveries.
Joe Root (44 off 54) kept the scoreboard ticking over but the real damage late in the innings was done by Ben Stokes, who blasted six fours and three sixes in the type of innings England needed to take its total to the next level.
The all-rounder was out in the final over for a whirlwind 79 off 54 and Jos Buttler chipped in with a cameo of 20 from eight balls to help the hosts set India a commanding target.
India have the quality with the willow to chase anything but England’s bowlers were fantastic, choking the life out of their opponent’s chase. KL Rahul was caught and bowled by Chris Woakes for a nine-ball duck and even when Rohit Sharma and Kohli came together, neither man was able to strike at a fast enough rate to make England nervous.
Sharma (102) made his third century of this World Cup and Kohli was his usual classy self in making 66 but when the pair departed within eight overs of each other, India still needed another 140 runs from less than 14 overs.
It was a task that proved too tough for India’s middle and lower order. Hardik Pandya (45 off 33) and Rishabh Pant (32 off 29) tried hard but their efforts were in vain.
Woakes picked up two wickets and fellow opening bowler Jofra Archer was economical, conceding just 45 runs from his 10 overs. Liam Plunkett came into the side, replacing Moeen Ali, and justified his selection by doing the damage through the middle overs to finish with 3/55 from 10 overs.