On the third anniversary of England’s greatest moment in this format they returned to this ground with a performance that might, with a little effort, have sparked a few hazy memories of that World Cup final win. Those present might be less likely to tell their grandkids about it in the distant future, but history was made once again – and Reece Topley is unlikely to tire of telling the story of the day he faced India at the home of cricket and produced the greatest bowling figures in England’s history.
In all Topley took six wickets for just 24 runs, with one ball of his 10 overs left unbowled. Having played only one ODI in five injury-blighted years before he returned to the side in March last year, he now looks indispensable.
“He’s got all the attributes to be a fantastic international bowler and I’m delighted for him to get those results,” said Jos Buttler.
“It’s a tribute to his perseverance and his outlook on life and the game. He’s had really tough experiences, and that’s given him a real sense of perspective and a real enjoyment when he’s playing.”
Though he ended India’s innings by dismissing Yuzvendra Chahal and Prasidh Krishna in the space of four deliveries, it was Topley’s bowling with David Willey at the start that transformed the match.
For most of Willey’s opening spell all the action came when he was not bowling. His first two overs were maidens, his first five cost just six runs, and two balls later he took the key wicket of Virat Kohli to leave India 31 for four. It was the 12th over, and England had turned the tourists’ run chase from a molehill into a mountain.
Topley had already taken the wickets of India’s openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, while Rishabh Pant had dumped Brydon Carse’s second ball of the day straight to mid-on to depart for a duck.
Though Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya brought some stability to India’s innings neither stayed long enough to turn the tide back in their team’s favour, and on a night when many of the England captain’s decisions brought rapid reward their partnership was broken when Topley returned in the 21st over and Yadav chopped his second delivery into his stumps.
Pandya eventually departed having scored 29 off 44 balls and Ravindra Jadeja did precisely the same. It was when the latter fell, inexplicably missing Liam Livingstone’s first ball of the day as it floated towards middle stump, that England knew the game was theirs.
The home side’s fielding was as sharp as their bowling, and this display was as encouraging as that in Tuesday’s first game of this three-match series had been shambolic.
Having once again lost the toss and been ordered to bat, their innings might not have been overwhelming but it was at least competent. This time Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah made no inroads with the new balls, but if they don’t get you with swing and seam, they’ll come for you with spin. Chahal was their key bowler on this occasion, taking four key wickets and leaking just 47 runs in his 10 overs. Jadeja, meanwhile, quietly bowled his five overs without taking any wickets, but conceded only 17 runs.
There was more than just a coincidence of scheduling to link this contest with the 2019 final. The circumstances could hardly have been more different, but as on that day three years ago, none of England’s top order really got going. Jonny Bairstow got to 38 but his captain fell cheaply. England found themselves in difficulty on 87 for four – before eventually heaving themselves to a total of 246.
“We’ve played at Lord’s quite a lot and it’s never a brilliant batting wicket,” Buttler said. “It felt like you could beat the bat and take wickets, so it’s a different style of ODI cricket to what we’ve seen over the last few years in England when we’ve played on excellent wickets and it’s been high-scoring. It felt a bit like the World Cup final wicket, not completely straightforward – and that creates interesting games of cricket as well.”
Chahal’s variations of pace and line were certainly vexing, and though he only occasionally threatened the stumps he managed to bowl Bairstow and snare both Joe Root and Ben Stokes lbw. Moeen Ali mistimed an attempt to slog-sweep a ball that drifted towards him at just under 45mph and heaved it to deep midwicket.
Willey’s contribution with the bat, with two fours and two sixes in his 41 – having been clumsily dropped by Krishna when he was on one – was vital in bringing England to a total that looked slightly under par. His best work, though, was still to come.