Topley picks six; India’s top-order collapse

In the first game, Indian bowlers exploded. In the second, the batsmen imploded. After England batsmen at Oval, it was the turn of India’s top order to depart towards the dressing room anguished and ashen-faced. Between the fabled top three—Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli—batters of proven calibre, they mustered 24 runs and soaked up 61 balls, leaving the middle order to play catch up for the remainder of the game. Though they showed late resistance, India ended up losing the game by 100 runs, with Topley logging in ODI-career best of 6/24

The target was not steep—247 is quite middling by modern-day standards—and there were no devious demons on the surface that made batting an ordeal. The track was more subcontinental in characteristics, slow surface that made batting laborious for England, who were undone chiefly by Yuzvendra Chahal’s wit and wisdom. Perhaps, the Indian top-order were disenchanted by the rather modest total against an attack that relies on cutters, angles and change of pace than raw pace or deceptive swing, that they perhaps took the total and the bowlers lightly.

First departed Rohit Sharma. Topley first rattled him with a short ball before he slipped in a classical away-goer that pitched on leg-stump and shaped into the top of Sharma’s off-stump but for the intervention of his pads. The memories of Mohammed Amir and Shaheen Shah Afridi were whipped up, but Topley was far less quicker, but quite sharp nonetheless and generates bounce with his 6 foot 7 inches frame. The next wicket had an element of good fortune, as he had Dhawan caught down the leg-side of a harmless ball, though the result owed to stifling lengths Topley and David Willey were hitting and the angles the left-arm pace pair were threading. They hardly conceded a boundary ball and frustrated the Indian batsmen with steady rather than spectacular bowling. The first boundary off the bat came in the fifth ball of the fifth over. They could add just three more in the next five overs.

It was England’s spirited response when pushed to the edge. They had been crushed in the first game, were stalled in the first half of the second game. They wanted a strong response, and they got one. Not Bazball, but hardball.

The stage, though, seemed ideal for Kohli to end his century drought. The wait for the 71st had stretched to nearly three years, and Kohli had looked in fine touch throughout this tour. But he was denied again, this time by Willey, who is innocuous that incisive. After early caution, Kohli was looking to impose himself on the bowlers. Off the 23rd ball he faced, he shimmied down the track and turned a Topley yorker into a full toss to strike his first four of the innings. He exchanged a few verbals with Willey, only to see his partner Rishabh Pant spoon a benign full-toss into the palms of the mid-on fielder for a zero. India were unravelling in an old-fashioned way.

England’s Reece Topley celebrates taking the wicket of India’s Mohammed Shami. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

There was hope. There was Kohli. But Willey stubbed it out with the wobble-seamer down the slope. Kohli could not resist a fatal nibble at a ball that he could have left alone. This time, he was more furious with himself than wretched fate. Though Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya resisted with a partnership of 42, infusing hope, Topley returned to oust Yadav, who dragged one onto his stumps soon after Topley was reintroduced. India were now 73 for 5 and soon they stumbled to 101 for 6 with Moeen Ali, whose 47 was the backbone of the England essay, dislodging Pandya. The latter relishes hitting the off-spinners out of the ground but he mistimed the ball, just a routine ball into the hands of Liam Livingstone.

England’s Reece Topley holds the ball up to celebrate taking his fifth wicket. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

But Ravindra Jadeja was unwilling to surrender. He fought on in the company of Mohammed Shami and stitched 39 runs. But the pair were ejected in successive deliveries, albeit separate overs, to snap the last lingering hopes of an improbable chase. The only question that remained was whether Topley, who had already accomplished his best figures in the format, could pick his first five-for in this format. He did, castling Chahal, before he wrapped up the sorry Indian innings with the wicket of Prasidh Krishna.

England’s Reece Topley, left, celebrates with England’s Jason Roy after taking the wicket of India’s Shikhar Dhawan. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The unfamiliar nemesis was Topley, who, ravaged by injuries, four stress fractures in five years, had deliberated on retiring. But he held on and after a six-year gap made his international comeback last year. “I moved away from cricket for a year, and when I came back, the game had moved on. It wasn’t until I played that I realised how batsmen are taking the Powerplay differently, how things are changing at the death. It was only through that competition that you really get a grasp of how the game has moved,” he had said on the eve of his comeback match last year in Ahmedabad. A year and a half on, he has put his name on the Lord’s honours board.

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