Eoin Morgan’s heroic century not enough as India clinch series

England skipper’s 102 came after tons from Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni

England’s captain Eoin Morgan is run out by India’s Jasprit Bumrah during the One-Day International at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

England’s captain Eoin Morgan is run out by India’s Jasprit Bumrah during the One-Day International at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

 

England were narrowly overpowered in Cuttack, going down swinging by 15 runs to lose the three-match series at the earliest possible opportunity. Asked to make 382, the third highest score batting second of all time, England pushed all the way, racking up their own highest ever chase under some gloomy lights and in front of a febrile, relentlessly involved full house crowd at the Barabati Stadium.

Eoin Morgan led the chase, the Dubliner producing a brilliant, ice-cold hundred when it was needed most both for team and captain. But this time around it was two of India’s modern day grandees, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, who produced the match-winning partnership, putting on 256 luminous runs from 38 overs as India ran away with the game in mid-afternoon.

As they had in Pune, England started well Cuttack. Chris Woakes produced a fine spell with the new ball to send back three Indian batsmen, including the white ball prince Virat Kohli.

After which, as in Pune, the bowling was a little lacking in menace and variation, and ultimately a little ragged, pummelled out of shape by a blizzard of pure, measured, artful violence as 100 runs came from India’s last seven overs.

It was a bruising day all round in the field. Ben Stokes was hit in the chest by a drive while he was bowling, smacked in the face by a ball thrown back from the crowd and spent 50 overs hurling himself around like a stuntman in the outfield.

Jake Ball was whacked on the hand fielding a terrifying straight drive and struggled for the first time with England with the ball. At times he served up a succession of tame bouncers that were essentially hitting practice for Yuvraj, who hurled his bat through the ball in a splendid parabola, with something formal about his strokes, a brutal kind of dance.

Really this was Yuvraj’s day. He played with scorching grace all round the wicket, gliding through the 90s and bringing up his 14th ODI hundred from his 89th ball with a nudge off Liam Plunkett. The Barabati, which was already in a state of constant eruption, erupted even more as Yuvraj removed his helmet to stare up at the sky, evidently moved by his own achievement.

It was a wonderful moment for a man who spent two months having treatment in America for a rare form of germ cell cancer in 2012. Yuvraj survived and came back. He’s been in and out since, but until now his best score for India since his treatment had been 61 against England in Rajkot four years ago. A double hundred in the Ranji Trophy in October had offered a way back into India’s depleted line-up. In Pune a group of Indian cricket journalists had joked that his selection was a wedding present from the BCCI after Yuvraj had married the British-born model Hazel Keech, a gesture of favour to the old lion. This was a glorious vindication.

Earlier England had won the toss and opted to bowl first at the Barabati, a collage of looming stands with a huge square stand-alone end that sits like a huge clunky 1980s desktop computer between by two impressively sweeping banks of seats.

Woakes struck twice early on, bowling a full swinging length. At which point Kohli emerged to vast, gathering cheers. Much had been made of some general remarks about England trying to bounce Kohli. Woakes’s first four balls to him were all full, the fifth even fuller, the kind of ball James Anderson might have sent snaking down on a May morning at Trent Bridge. Kohli prodded without moving his feet and the edge was grabbed by Stokes.

At 25-3 the Barabati was rescued from its sudden torpor by the sight of the Dhoni-Yuvraj cricketing-industrial complex, two of India’s enduring luminous modern giants. Yuvi and Dhoni have 580 ODIs between them, a combined age of 70 and a pooled wealth of $140 million, ($100 million of which is Dhoni’s). Gradually Yuvraj began to ease to find his cogs clanking into gear, the rust falling away, producing a succession of wonderfully elegant pushes through cover and mid-off: a gently chastening little push, like a raised eyebrow back up the pitch.

The 50 stand came up in the 17th over, the first from the pair since the 2011 World Cup final The hundred arrived soon after, Dhoni abandoning his caution to step out of his crease and thunk Moeen Ali down the ground with a wrench of his bottom hand. Even in his cautious mode Dhoni hits the ball like he really really does want to hurt it.

India’s 150 came up with a vast club over cow corner by Dhoni off Moeen Ali, the ball hitting the netting stretched across into the largest stand to general delirium. Finally, with 36 overs gone and India at 217-3 Woakes returned, still riding a sequence of 20 straight dot balls from that distant period when England had looked to have India by the throat. Dhoni produced the shuffling mini-windmill, whirling Woakes back over mid-on for six, all biceps and a cold, still eye in the middle of that flurry of limbs.

A little later Woakes bowled Yuvraj a waist-high short ball and he simply stood there, feet planted and swung it overlong-on, bat ending up furled dashingly over his shoulder.

With Yuvraj finally caught for 150, his highest one day score, Dhoni just kept going. In the 90s he’d pulled a ball from Woakes with such power it smacked the spider-cam and still went in the crowd as the the ball kept disappearing up into the grainy blue sky.

England had at the halfway stage already conceded their fourth highest ever total of runs for a three-match series. A successful chase here would have been the third highest of all time. In smudgy beige light, with the dew to come and the crowd a constant barracking presence it looked even more distant, all the more so when Alex Hales was caught behind carving loosely at Jasprit Bumrah.

Joe Root and Jason Roy played with care for a while, Roy, reeling off one stunning straight bat loft over the sight screen off Ashwin, but he was bowled for 82 by a fizzed ball from Ravi Jadeja.

Stokes was bowled by Ashwin, Buttler was stumped, but the game game kept on twitching, refusing to die as Morgan and Moeen Ali scampered and swept and played the odd booming slog-sweep into the crowd.

Thirty-three were needed from the final two overs when Morgan went to a superb, thrillingly calculated hundred from 80 balls. It was just too little here, but England will take an odd kind of heart from a 2-0 series defeat that emphasised again that this team is still only half-built, a more balanced and convincing attack away from becoming real contenders.

(Guardian service)

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