Perhaps good fortune is a finite resource in English cricket. Maybe there’s only so much of it to go around and Brendon McCullum used more than his fair share in overhauling the Test team.
More pragmatic cricketing reasons lie at the heart of a thumping 10-wicket win for India in which Jasprit Bumrah took six for 19 as England were bowled out for 110 inside 26 overs before Rohit Sharma’s 58-ball 76 hauled in the target with ruthless efficiency.
Bumrah was unplayable across an opening five-over spell that ripped out four wickets for just nine runs. Mohammad Shami was equally dangerous as India’s premier quicks made a mess of England’s scoreboard: 0 7 0 0 0 is not the hotline for a batting consultant but rather the individual contributions of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Liam Livingstone.
At 26 for five there were echoes of England’s capitulation to South Africa at Lord’s in 2017 when Kagiso Rabada went on a similar rampage. But that blip worth 153 was an island in a sea of blockbuster totals. This reverse follows two inept batting performances in the Twenty20 series defeat last week. Jos Buttler’s tenure as white-ball captain has stumbled out of the gates.
“[It’s] obviously a really disappointing day, it’s a tough loss to take,” a sullen-looking Buttler said around the time India were scheduled to bat.
Not that there is a need to hit the panic button just yet. Bad days at the office are factored into the equation and opposition players will occasionally shine. So it proved as a capacity crowd were deprived of 56% of their promised entertainment.
“If I look back over the past sort of five, six years, our batting has been our super strength in this form of the game,” Buttler said. “We’ll stick to what we know and there’s huge trust in that dressing room. There’s some brilliant players in there.”
Roy was the first to go as he dragged a drive back on to his stumps. That is 31 runs from four innings against India this summer for the usually fluent opener. Root was out two balls later dangling his bat at a lifting wide one. Stokes was then gone for a golden duck, caught behind off the inside edge to Shami, and Bairstow was snaffled by Rishabh Pant’s outstretched right glove after Bumrah’s fizzer straightened off the deck from a perfect length. Had Bairstow not been in such fine form he might have missed it.
Livingstone was bowled round his legs while venturing down the track to Bumrah and Moeen Ali was caught by Prasidh Krishna on the follow-through. Watching on was Buttler, who remained serene amidst the carnage.
He drove on the up and clipped off his hips. Even with the score reading 59 for seven he took on Shami’s short ball, swivelling it behind square for four. Rather than adjust and go fuller, Shami went shorter, rushing Buttler’s pull. The resulting top edge sailed into the muggy air before nestling in Suryakumar Yadav’s hands on the deep square fence with the England white-ball captain on 30.
So ended England’s hopes of a competitive score. Shami had his third when he knocked over Craig Overton and Bumrah bowled David Willey and Brydon Carse to claim the best ODI figures posted at the Oval: 7.2‑3‑19‑6 scarcely reflects his sizzling display. Every ball felt significant. Every staccato step of his run-up drew an intake of breath. From a shoulder seemingly made of rubber he produced a masterclass in fast bowling.
“He’s been one of the leading bowlers and in the world for a number of years now,” Buttler said of his former teammate at the Mumbai Indians whose wizardry could not be matched by his English counterparts. Willey and Reece Topley were tidy up front, but once Sharma got going, and Shikhar Dhawan – 31 off 54 balls – played the anchor role, an unlikely snatch-and-grab dissipated from view.
Overton and Carse came in for particular punishment, conceding 8.5 and 10.36 runs per over respectively, but no England bowler threatened to take a wicket. Stokes turned his arm over but looked uncomfortable throughout his six-ball set. Buttler dismissed any talk of an injury concern.
Thankfully there is not much room to dwell on this failure before the sequel on Thursday. Lose that, though, and Buttler might wonder if there is any luck left in the world.