They came to ease their World Cup hangovers at a ground where England are usually invincible but all a packed out Nottingham crowd got was an indication that there may well be more heartbreak on a different global stage next summer.
England, led by Eoin Morgan, are still considered favourites for next year’s Cricket World Cup. But that status may change in the coming days if India follow up this dominant eight-wicket win in this first ODI with a repeat performance at Lord’s on Saturday.
Virat Kohli’s team were inspired by a career-best bowling performance from left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who took six for 25 in his 10 overs to restrict the hosts to 268 batting first, and an unbeaten 137 from a batsman in Rohit Sharma who is in supreme touch right now.
On a ground where Morgan’s team hit an ODI-record 481 for six against Australia last month, England’s total never looked enough and India were on another level entirely as they chased down their target with 59 balls to spare. This really was a hammering.
Kuldeep, as a left-arm wrist-spinner, is a rare phenomenon, so rare in fact that Joe Root, in six years playing for England, has never encountered one before. He has still only faced three deliveries from this particular type of spinner – all from Kuldeep – and he has been dismissed twice, once here after being bamboozled by a googly and when he was out for a golden duck in last week’s opening T20 international at Old Trafford.
Root was one of five wickets for Kuldeep in Manchester but after bettering that haul here, the 23-year-old looks certain to be named in India’s squad for the upcoming five-Test series against England that starts at Edgbaston on August 1.
Indeed, this is a bowler who, in this driest of English summers, is likely to tip the Test series decisively in his side’s favour. By the time that comes around, England could also have lost their No1 one-day ranking.
In fact anything less than a series-levelling victory at Lord’s this weekend and another win at Headingley three days later will see India, currently No2, leapfrog their hosts and also take over their status as favourites for next year’s World Cup.
England can recover from this, after all they have won seven successive ODI series. Yet they will have to play much better than this though.
They are badly missing Chris Woakes, the leader of their 50-over attack who is coming back from injury, and the runs of Root. The Yorkshireman was out for just three here – his team’s second dismissal during a first spell from Kuldeep of three wickets for five runs in ten balls.
It was an eighth innings without a half-century for Root and the confidence of a player who was dropped for last weekend’s T20 decider in Bristol appears shot. England will hope he recovers before the Test series, especially as his captaincy of that team will be seriously questioned if they lose it.
But he was not alone in his struggles against Kuldeep here, the spinner putting the brakes on England’s decent start, which saw them reach 71 without loss after ten overs, to strike with just his second ball of the match when Jason Roy reverse swept him to cover.
Root and Jonny Bairstow, trapped lbw on review, followed in his next over. Morgan broke the sequence when he clipped leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal to midwicket. Normal service resumed, though, late in the innings after a 93-run stand between Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes rescued England from the depths of 105 for four.
However, both fell to Kuldeep after passing fifty, Stokes compiling his slowest ODI half-century – in 102 balls – before eventually succumbing to a brilliant catch by Siddarth Kaul at backward point.
David Willey was his final wicket, caught in the deep, during ten overs that saw England fail to hit a single boundary off his bowling. This was not the transformed team we have grown to become excited about since the last World Cup. Indeed, at one point they went 12 overs without scoring a single boundary.
Yet India, eyeing a 10th successive ODI series win, are tough opponents and their measured approach in the chase showed just accomplished they are.
Despite losing Shikhar Dhawan for 40 to Moeen Ali early on, they were on cruise control by the time Kohli and Rohit, who also scored an unbeaten T20 hundred in Bristol last Sunday, took their partnership past 100. By the time Rohit, dropped on 92 by Roy, made it back-to-back centuries, smashing Adil Rashid for six, his team needed just 54 more to win.
Rashid did at least get the prize wicket of Kohli, stumped by Jos Buttler on 75 to deny India’s captain a century. But it proved nothing more than an empty consolation.