Favourites England, India start WC preparation with losses

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli, Image : AP

New Delhi, May 26 England and India, both touted as favourites for the ICC World Cup 2019, began their preparations for the showpiece event on a losing note, something which they must not be hoping for.

The Virat Kohli-led India were thrashed in their first warm-up game against New Zealand at The Oval on Saturday. Left-arm pacer Trent Boult wreaked havoc on the Indian batsmen as they were bundled out for a mere 179 which the Black Caps chased down easily losing four wickets.

Ross Taylor (71) and captain Kane Williamson (67) both spent useful time in the middle as New Zealand crossed the line with almost 13 overs to spare.

Earlier, having won the toss, Kohli elected to bat on a wicket with a fair amount of grass in order to test his batsmen in challenging conditions. However, his decision backfired as none of the three opening options – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul – managed to make a mark. Even Kohli, the number one batter in the world, couldn’t provide much resistance to his struggling team and was cleaned bowed by Colin de Grandhomme. After his wicket, India were left reeling at 39 for 4 in the 11th over.

Hardik Pandya managed some quick runs while MS Dhoni hung around for a while but by the time Ravindra Jadeja walked out to bat, they were reduced to 77 for 5, and three balls later, slid to 81 for 6. Boult snared a four-fer while James Neesham snared three wickets as India folded up for 179, batting less than 40 overs.

However, despite the poor batting performance, Jadeja said there was no need for the team to press the panic button.

“This was our first game, there’s nothing to worry about as a batting unit. It’s just a matter of one game. You can’t judge a player from one bad innings. We just need to work harder and focus more on our batting skills. Nothing to worry, everyone has a lot of experience… Hopefully, during the (world cup) matches, we get a different wicket, better wicket to bat on,” said Jadeja who scored 54 runs.

India would aim to amend their batting mistakes and get into the groove when they take on Bangladesh in the second warm-up match before beginning their World Cup campaign against South Africa on June 5.

In the other warm-up game, England, in absence of their regular skipper Eoin Morgan, failed to come out with their usual powerpacked performance as they lost to arch-rivals Australia by 12 runs. Chasing 298, England were bowled out for 285 in Southampton.

Earlier, Steve Smith announced his pending return to international cricket with a flawless century as Australia put in a solid bowling performance without gun quicks Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to hand a hobbled England outfit a rare defeat on their home turf.

Smith scored 116 runs (102 balls, 4×8, 6×3) as Australia posted 297/9 in their stipulated quota of 50 overs.

For England, stand-in skipper Jos Buttler (52 off 31), James Vince (64 off 76), Chris Woakes (40 off 44) and Liam Plunkett (19 off 20) put up a valiant fight. However, they could not help their side get across the line as the hosts were eventually bowled out for 285 with three balls to spare.

Openers Jason Roy (32 off 36) and Jonny Bairstow (12 off 17) failed to give England the start they would have hoped chasing the total.

Having lost Morgan on the eve of the match, England’s injury worries mounted further as pacer Mark Wood left the field during his opening spell and was sent for scans on his foot, before Liam Dawson also exited late in Australia’s innings after hurting his finger collecting a return throw. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid too was on the sidelines with a shoulder niggle.

At one stage of the game, the hosts were so short of reserves that they had to call on 42-year-old assistant coach Paul Collingwood to come onto the ground at stages during Australia’s innings.

“I thought we were in a position to win the game but disappointing when you get out,” said Buttler after the game.

England would be hoping that Morgan gets fit for the second warm-up game against Afghanistan on Monday.

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