Stokes
Ben Stokes scored fastest fifty for England against India AFP

England posted a mammoth 351-run target for India in the first of the three-match ODI series, at Pune’s Maharashtra Cricket Stadium, courtesy Ben Stokes’ death-over blitz. After being asked to bat first, England captain Eoin Morgan admitted he too had planned to bowl first, given the dew factor. However, he now will want his bowling unit to put up a collective performance to go one up in the series. For India, barring Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, none of the bowlers could contain the onslaught. They were taken to the cleaners early on by Jason Roy and Joe root, scoring a fifty apiece. While Umesh Yadav conceded 63 off 7 overs, Ravichandran Ashwin went wicketless, going at almost 8 an over.

Virat Kohli, playing in his first match as the full-time captain in limited overs, had a spring in his walk when he entered amidst a roaring Pune crowd. Following his team were belligerent English openers Roy and Alex Hales. Roy’s career strike rate was almost 104 (before this match) and Hales has the highest individual score for England in ODIs.

FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs England, 1st ODI at Pune

Umesh and Hardik Pandya started off the proceeding, both clocking 140 kmph. However, the duo bowled either too wide or too straight, finding it difficult to stick to the gameplan.

Roy, staying true to his reputation, smacked three boundaries off the first two overs: deft touch, cover-drive, followed by another drive past mid-off.

A scythe and a glance later, the scorecard read 34 for 0 off 6 overs. England were off to a good start.

Then came the shot of the day: Umesh pitched it on middle and off; Roy, on the front foot, punched it through mid-wicket. It, however, looked like a premeditated stroke, but not many know that it is Roy’s trademark shot: a punch on the leg-side.

Roy nudged the next ball and ran for the second. But little did he know that Jasprit Bumrah, running from deep fine-leg, was quick enough to pick up the ball and hit the stumps at non-striker’s end, from around 80-odd metres. And thus, India drew first blood: Hales was back in the pavilion.

That did not stop Roy from scoring his 6th half-century off 36 deliveries. Roy then targeted Bumrah, clearing backward point and Ashwin, punching past mid-off. With Joe Root at the other end, the stage was all set for Roy to go great guns.

Amidst the rampage, Roy was yet to score a boundary off Jadeja. Nonetheless, he had got his eye in and thus walked down the ground. But Jadeja was smart enough to read his foot work and accordingly pulled back his length. With the bat coming from an angle, Roy completely missed the ball. Dhoni, for the swaggering wicketkeeper is reputed for, disturbed the bails in a flash.

Skipper Eoin Morgan joined his deputy Root in the middle, with England at 108 for 2.

Ravichandran Ashwin could not emulate what he did in the Test series. Morgan hit a six and four to put the off-spinner on the back foot. Meanwhile, Root was busy playing his old-school, proper cricketing shots.

Kohli took Ashwin off the attack and gave Bumrah his second spell. He, though, gave away 10 runs off the first over off his second spell, but soon caught Morgan in the crease, producing an outside edge to Dhoni. Morgan did not leave his crease, suggesting he did not get any nick. The umpire may have turned down the appeal, but Dhoni straightaway signalled to his captain to ask for a review. The review was taken, the ultra-edge seconded Dhoni on the nick and the on-field umpire had no option but to overturn his decision, because Dhoni.

Jos Buttler, who averaged 55.31 at a strike rate of 135 since May 2015, played a quickfire 31 before he holed out to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-off.

Root then reached his 28th fifty without anyone realising. He then raced to 78 before he played a false stroke off Bumrah’s slower ball. England lost yet another set batsmen when they needed the most.

But England do not have a tail, so much so that No. 9 batsman David Willey has a T20 hundred in domestic cricket as an opener. Besides, Ben Stokes was still at the crease. He fired on all cylinders and plundered 62 off just 40 the fastest fifty by an England player against India.

To make matters more challenging for India, Moeen Ali added 28 off 17, taking the score to 350 for 7 their highest against India.

Brief scores:

England 350 for 7 (Jason Roy 73, Joe Root 78, Ben Stokes 62; Hardik Pandya 2 for 46) vs India.