With England smelling victory, they coughed, spluttered and farted their way to a shambolic defeat.
In a short space of time, India have found a remarkable team at least the equal of their World Cup winning side. In little more than two years, almost an entire side has been replaced, with just MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina remaining from that night in Mumbai. Given the glacial speed at which the BCCI usually operate, credit must be given to the management who have enabled this transition, including Duncan Fletcher, whose fingerprints are all over the newer players – ones who can actually field and are in the team based on form and ability rather than reputation or politics. The best team in the tournament deserved to lift the trophy.
However, for much of the final, they looked second best. They started more slowly with the bat than usual and lost four quick wickets in the middle overs, leaving them 66/5. It was Ravi Jadeja in conjunction with the impressive Kohli who scored quickly enough towards the end of the innings to get them to a competitive total, the former’s 33* coming from 25 balls.
Their opening bowlers looked below par compared to their previous efforts in the tournament, but the spinners were always going to be the main threat. Quite why Dhoni then chose to bowl Ishant Sharma (along with Raina, one of the two members of the team who we can’t bring ourselves to admire) will remain a mystery, and when his final over – the 18th – included a six and two wides, it looked like he had secured the defeat. But two wickets in two balls – neither of which were especially great – changed the character of the match. With the powerplay and an over each from Jadeja and R Ashwin to follow, after that, the game was all theirs.
As the rain came and went and came again, delaying the first ball of the match by such a length of time that Mrs Bresnan’s next child is due imminently, England fans might have been content to share the trophy – winning the toss had improved their chances of victory, but the subsequent loss of overs diminished them. So the way that England bowled was, if not a surprise, certainly a pleasant sight following six hours of Ian Botham in the Sky studio. The pacemen did well – Anderson would have been even more economical in his opening spell if Tim Bresnan, Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan hadn’t combined to give away four overthrows (another overthrow from Morgan followed soon after).
Yet it was the deadly duo of Ravi Bopara and James Tredwell who really ensured India wouldn’t reach the kind of total that in itself would make England’s knees wobble like James Taylor’s whilst giving Samit Patel a piggyback. No doubt we weren’t the only ones to question the former’s inclusion in the squad, but few would have bandied around quite so many expletives as us. Well Mr Bopara, we were fucking wrong. Sort of.
It is hard to know where to start with the denouement of the game, but with 16 balls to go England needed just 20 runs and had six wickets in hand; Morgan and Bopara had put on 64 for the fifth wicket. Two balls from Sharma later, both of which were despatched straight to the waiting hands of ring fielders, and India were back in the game. If we hadn’t already thrown away our Sky+ box in disgust, we’d replay the final overs whilst listening to Yakety Sax. Or the sound of someone gnawing their own leg off in agony. Buttler tried to launch his first ball all the way back to Somerset and was bowled. Stuart Broad took an impossible single but Jadeja decided not to bother sealing the run out (we will come back to bail-related matters later). Bresnan missed a sweep and then decided to run despite the ball landing at the feet of Rohit Sharma about six yards away.
Broad and Tredwell did their best to make 15 runs from the final over, but Ashwin was far too good, even for Sir Tredders of Kentshire. England finished five runs short – precisely the same number of overthrows they’d given away earlier in the game. It was uncharacteristically unprofessional from England – not just the ‘buzzers’ but succumbing to the pressure of the situation in the most shambolic manner.
To return to the other talking point – and one which is not an excuse for England’s collapse but is one of concern -there were some strange decisions from the third umpire Bruce Oxenford. The first was the most minor, when he awarded four runs as Bresnan fielded the ball close to the third man boundary. From the replays we saw, it really did not look like he touched the ball whilst outside or on the original boundary line. Cricinfo similarly noted it seemed a strange decision, as did Michael Holding on television commentary.
In England’s innings Ian Bell was later given out stumped. It was fine work from MS Dhoni, but as with seemingly all line-decisions in this tournament, umpire Dharmasena ‘went upstairs’. It was a very marginal case, and the truth was hidden between frames. When the stump first began to move, Bell’s foot was not grounded behind the line, but by the time the bail was definitely “completely removed from the top of the stumps” it was. Later, Broad was possibly stumped in a similar scenario. From more than one angle, it looked considerably more likely that the foot had not been grounded in time. Yet this time Oxenford ruled in the batsman’s favour. It was puzzling to say the least – and each commentator on the television at the time thought so as well.
England will rue their missed opportunity of finally lifting some 50-over silverware, but let’s be honest: the tournament is irrelevant anyway – something we’ve been saying since before it began. They have the vitally important T20 internationals against New Zealand, after which they’re not doing much until next year, apart from taking part in some charity games against some random blokes.
Farcically, India head off to the West Indies for an ODI tri-series also involving Sri Lanka that starts on Friday. Seriously, what is the fucking point?