England finally won their first game of the India tour, claiming victory by five runs at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday. Batting first, England posted a challenging 321 on 8 on the board, courtesy fifties from Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. India again lost wickets early, but a splendid 90 from Kedar Jadhav and enterprising fifties from Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya kept them in the hunt. England’s pace bowlers however held their nerves as Jake Ball, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes chipped away at the wickets to keep up the pressure on the hosts. They eventually reigned supreme.
Needing 16 to win off the last over, Jadhav raised India’s hopes by clubbing a six and a four off the first two balls of Woakes, on the off-side. But, Woakes hit back by having the batsman caught in the deep off a wide yorker length delivery. With six needed off the last ball, Bhuvneshwar Kumar tried to heave one down the ground, but missed the ball altogether. The victory not only gave England their first win of the tour, but also their maiden victory at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. It was but obvious that skipper Eoin Morgan was pleased after having lost two close games.
Stokes, who was hit for four consecutive sixes the last time England played here, in the 2016 World T20 final, was the star of the show for his team this time. With the bat, he first smashed a brilliant 57 not out from 39 balls, which ensured England set India a tough target of 322. With the ball, he then held his nerve getting the big wickets of Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Ravichandran Ashwin at key moments. He finished with figures of 3 for 63, and his constant strikes pegged India back. It was redemption of sorts for Stokes after the World T20 final horror.
India once again got off to a poor start. Ajinkya Rahane was brought in for Shikhar Dhawan, but the fortunes did not change much as Rahane was cleaned up by a swinging delivery. Lokesh Rahul also played an uncontrolled pull to be caught behind off Ball. Skipper Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh took the score past the 100-mark, but Kohli could not carry on this time. He was caught behind for 55, slashing one outside the off stump. Yuvraj too fell after getting a start, flicking one straight to the fielder. Jadhav and Pandya kept the fight up for India, but couldn’t take India over the line.
Earlier, England got off to a confident start after losing the toss. Roy and Sam Billings, who came in for the injured Alex Hales, added 98 for the opening wicket. Ravindra Jadeja, however, brought India back into the game, dismissing both – Billings for 35 and Roy for 65. Bairstow and Morgan brought England back into the match, with an 84-run stand for the third wicket. Pandya’s triple strike then gave India the upper hand. He dismissed Bairstow and Morgan for 56 and 43 respectively before Jos Buttler fell cheaply. Stokes then changed the game, first with the bat in hand and then with the ball.
--By A Cricket Correspondent