Whither the 50-over format? Or should that be wither, as far as the World Champions are concerned. On a hot and humid afternoon at the Kia Oval, not even the reunion of England’s Class of 2019 top-order could resist the extraordinary skills of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, who inflicted on Jos Buttler – in his first official match as ODI captain – a truly humbling experience.
By the time England had been routed for 110 in 25.2 overs – yes, this is 50 overs a side, though it’ll be lucky to last that across two innings – Bumrah had racked up the staggering figures of 6 for 19, beating Ashish Nehra’s 6 for 23 at the 2003 World Cup as India’s best against England. That haul included two for none in three balls in his first over of the match, and two for none in seven balls at the death, as a spirited but futile bout of slogging from England’s tail was sawn off in uncompromising fashion.
Shami was more expensive but no less critical in routing England’s intentions after being asked to bat first, with the huge scalp of Ben Stokes for a first-ball duck in his second over, as well as that of Buttler, whose 30 from 32 was his team’s only meaningful source of resistance, but which ended with a top-edged pull to deep square leg, a sucker-punch one ball after he’d successfully picked off the last of his six fours in the same direction.
Coming in the wake of India’s 2-1 series win in the T20Is – a scoreline made all the more emphatic by their quashing of a pair of “timid” England displays in the first two games – this was another statement performance from a team that is coming together in ominous fashion ahead of two World Cups in quick succession, the T20 version in Australia in four months’ time, and a home 50-over campaign in the new year.
England’s meltdown was telegraphed early – just as had been the case against South Africa at Lord’s in 2017 and against Australia in Adelaide the following winter, two previous occasions when their pedal-to-the-metal approach had come a spectacular cropper after being asked to bat first in helpful conditions and against a formidable seam attack.
And with respect to Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood et al, few are more formidable right now that Bumrah and Shami – and that’s without even mentioning the prodigious skills of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the main man of the T20I series, who remains sparingly used across the longer formats.
Bumrah’s first over in particular had it all. After a first-ball sighter to Jason Roy, he bought his wicket courtesy of two wicked inswingers, the second hooping dramatically past a hard-handed drive and over the top of off stump. One ball later, sensing the likelihood that Roy would keep coming, he fired the ball out wider with a fraction less bend, and induced a flat-footed nick into the stumps as Roy trooped off for the tenth duck of his ODI career … and the first of a dramatic top-order implosion.
Out strode Joe Root at No. 3, reunited with Jonny Bairstow – his partner in crime from that astonishing 378-run chase from last week’s Edgbaston Test. The pair had been inseparable for 269 runs spanning 54.3 overs in that memorable fourth innings. Now? Their stand lasted all of two balls, as Root was fatefully lured by the extra lift outside off, as he feathered the nick through to Rishabh Pant and mouthed “bounce” at his team-mate as he trooped off for a duck.
At 6 for 2, England did at least have the mighty Stokes still to come – there’s no backwards step from teams that he’s a part of, after all. Shami, however, had other ideas. In his second over, he produced a pearler of an inswinger to the left-hander, shaping the ball back in from round the wicket to snag the inside edge, for Pant to leap with quick feet and a primed right glove. That was the first of his three catches behind the stumps – two of them blinders.
At 7 for 3, the scoreline was now rather similar to the collapses that have greeted Bairstow’s recent arrivals on the Test scene, but despite one bristling first-over four, he was for once powerless to resist. Bumrah’s three-card trick to extract England’s form batter was masterful – inswinger, outswinger, and a bulldozer on off stump, one that just kept coming on to a tentative each-way defensive push, as Pant again leapt smartly to his right to cling on in front of first slip.
At 17 for 4, Liam Livingstone tried and failed to bide his time. Seven consecutive dot-balls piled up the pressure, and when he snapped for his eighth delivery – scampering down the track to intercept Bumrah’s movement – he was utterly confounded. Another pinpoint inswinger swung behind his legs into the base of his stumps, and suddenly England had lost four of their top six for ducks – a further emulation of their Adelaide catastrophe.
At 26 for 5, Buttler and Moeen Ali attempted to regroup, and at the very least they managed to double the total in the next six overs as Hardik Pandya and Prasidh Krishna entered the attack. But having pumped the second of his two fours past Prasidh’s outstretched right hand, Moeen succumbed two balls later in similar fashion, as the lanky fast bowler stooped low in his followthrough to scoop up a return catch for 14. Rohit’s response, at 53 for 6, was to bring Shami back for the kill … and within three balls of his return, Buttler too was trooping back.
There was at least a flicker of resistance from England’s tail. Craig Overton couldn’t emulate his brother Jamie’s 97 on debut in the Trent Bridge Test, but he did pick off two fours in three balls before Shami claimed his third, while Brydon Carse, David Willey and even the bona fide bunny, Reece Topley all outdid their top-order colleagues – the latter with a lump through the line off Yuzvendra Chahal as England’s No.11 managed the only six of their innings, a rarity on two counts for this hard-hitting line-up.
But after having his peerless figures dented with two fours off Willey, Bumrah reverted to the full stump-rattling length that had started England’s slide, and that was the end of that. A day that had begun with speculation about Virat Kohli’s absence (groin injury) is set to be done and dusted long before the Oval floodlights have to get involved.