Paul van Meekeren charges down the pitch, swings and misses. Jos Buttler collected Moeen Ali’s flat offbreak, moved his hands over the stumps as if toying with Van Meekeren, then pulled them back. Bail out. There were high-fives, pats on the back and even a few laughs as the England players gathered in the middle.
So this seemed. 29 days after their first win in this World Cup, Bangladesh’s past is a breeze They finally had their second at Hospice in England. On those 29 daysThey stayed in seven different hotels in seven different cities, traveled nearly 5,500 km on six different flights, lost five consecutive matches and were bowled out in all five.
In most sports, teams are at the mercy of losing at the World Cup, sending them home after two or three losses. Not cricket. England’s beleaguered players have been stuck halfway around the world for the past two weeks with their semi-final chances stretched, aimlessly waiting for someone, anyone to deliver the killer blow.
Australia has delivered, but even that was not enough. The Mid-tournament revelation With a Champions Trophy spot on the line, England had no choice but to play a low-key match against the Netherlands, a side they took. The world record total is 498 Last year but one with more points than their first seven matches, a must win.
And so, in Pune – or more accurately, a vast, empty stadium outside Pune, located on the edge of a sprawling suburb somewhere near the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and overlooked by an unfinished housing project. A sparse crowd, 9,217 as reported by the ICC, scurried around this 42,700-seater concrete bowl.
England took 39 runs from the first four overs and lost Jonny Bairstow for 15 runs. Daud Malan Brought up a 36-ball half-century and Joe Root finally got it out from the first powerplay. But then came a familiar stumble: Root was nutmeged by Logan van Beek, lost reverse-scooping his middle stump and panicked.
Malan ran out after it was sent back Ben StokesLooking for a single that was never there, Harry Brook – eventually brought back in for Liam Livingstone – hit two superb boundaries before snaring Bass de Lied at deep square leg, and Buttler struck towards mid-off, completely out of his usual position at this stage. became isolated. Self-assurance
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Stadium DJs were impregnable on the edge of empty seats, blasting Canadian rap between overs. Moeen Ali half-heartedly took 4 off 15 balls to send Aryan Dutt straight down the throat of the D lead. In the stands, an elderly England fan held up a sign that spontaneously proclaimed: “We lost Bangladesh”.
Chris Woakes hits a single off Dutt, then takes a firm catch off the last ball of his over. “Alright Pune, let’s power up!” requested the DJ. “Hands up, hands up, dance, dance, dance, let’s go!” no one danced England’s double world champions ruled out keeping their legacy intact.
It was left to Stokes to bail them out. He was given life on 41, when Dutt brought down a tough chance at fine leg off van Beek, then started grinding through the gears. He reached a 58-ball half-century, his second in a row, when he launched De Lead over midwicket, then marmalade Dutt after surviving an indecisive review for lbw.
Stokes’ second fifty took just 20 balls as he reverse-slapped Van Meekeren for four to bring up the century. It was his first at the World Cup, a fact that only underscores how some players’ impact won’t be measured by milestones in light of his 2019 heroics.
But it was a strange sight: England’s man for the big moment 25km outside Pune in a Champions Trophy qualification battle. Stokes, of course, would not play in that tournament, but his innings had at least pulled them to a seventh-highest place in the World Cup group stage to reach the final round.
That, then, is why Stokes stayed in India instead of going home and proceeding with the knee operation within a week. “It’s not his style at all,” Buttler said. “He’s here for the World Cup and he wants to stay here.” The pair also did not discuss the possibility of Stokes leaving early.
Buttler’s emotions eased when England produced another solid bowling performance to win by 160 runs – the third in a row, after bowling out India and Australia. “It’s not fun to lose,” he said. “It was a frustrating time… Any game I play, I’m competitive, I want to win – whether it’s a game of cards or a game of cricket.”
Finally the losing streak was broken. Butler said, “It’s nice to finish that sequence and we go to Kolkata. “Not playing for who we wanted to play for, but a really important match for us in the grand scheme of things. It’s great to go there with something on the line.”
England now fly east to take on Pakistan on Saturday, where they will at least be competing for a berth in the semi-finals at the Eden Gardens – and against India, no less. Then finally, after a final sequence of traveling-train-play, they will be able to defend this disappointing title of history.