England reignited their World Cup campaign with a stirring victory over India as Jonny Bairstow let his bat do the talking with a match-winning century at Edgbaston.
The stakes were impossibly high for the hosts after back-to-back defeats but Eoin Morgan’s side held their nerve in a 31-run success, ending India’s undefeated streak to reclaim their own place in the top four.
Bairstow’s suggestion that critics were “waiting for us to fail” had been poorly received during the week but he repaid any lingering debt in style, striking 111 to set up an imposing total of 337 for seven.
Bairstow did not go into battle alone as fit-again opening partner Jason Roy set the tone with an aggressive 66, while Ben Stokes made it three half-centuries in a row with his bustling 79, but his knock did the heaviest lifting.
Bairstow was in a combative mood when he aired his comment in an interview earlier this week, ostensibly in response to criticism from former England captains Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen. The remarks left many bemused and some even wondered whether they offered a worrying insight into England’s state of mind after the defeats to Sri Lanka and Australia. Bairstow has often thrived when he feels slighted or has a point to prove. He did so again via a superb 90-ball hundred, eventually falling for 111 but laying the foundations for a mammoth total.
Commonly referred to as the ‘Joe Root conundrum’. As England’s Test captain can attest, failing to convert 50s is hardly a disaster for his Indian counterpart. Kohli has looked in supreme touch in this tournament but is the weight of expectation as the best batsman on the planet – inarguable to anyone in India, beyond a reasonable doubt to those outside – weighing on his mind? A big score may be just around the corner but the issue may do so the longer it persists, as was the case with Root.
Jos Buttler deserves commending for clearing the longer boundary at midwicket with a stunning pull from just his second ball following his belated arrival at the crease. But, as far as aesthetically pleasing strokes go, it is tough to overlook a Kohli cover drive. The particular shot in question came when Jofra Archer over-pitched in the sixth over, and India’s captain extraordinaire leaned into the drive, the ball careering away for four. A joy to behold.
In Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, India had two young guns with experience of handling intense pressure scenarios. Both have risen to the fore in the Indian Premier League and Pandya had just taken 16 from Woakes’ seventh over – the 39th. Woakes would have a major influence in the next over, providing another contender for catch of the tournament to see off Pant, whose swivel pull off Plunkett seemed to be heading for six. However, Woakes charged along to the deep square-leg boundary and dived to his left to hold on to a blinder.
July 1: Sri Lanka v West Indies at Chester-le-Street