ICC CHAMPIONS TROPHY 2017: Root ton ensures England live up to favourites tag

England put up a superb display, chasing down Bangladesh’s total of 305 for 6 with eight wickets and 16 balls to spare, to get their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 campaign off to a winning start. Joe Root starred with a brilliant hundred, while Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan too hit form for the hosts.

While there were questions marks hanging over every other team, England walked into the tournament, played at home, as the big favourites. ICC tournaments haven’t really been England’s forte, but the squad under Eoin Morgan has shown to be one of the most fearsome and the favourites tag is a proper fit.

For most parts of the first half of the game, Bangladesh challenged that much-popular claim. England are favourites? Not if we can help it. Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim shared a superb 166-run stand for the third wicket, the fifth highest for Bangladesh in ODIs, to lay the platform for a big first innings total after they were asked to bat.

England, however, came back hard during the final six overs, and restricted their opponents to a more-gettable 305. In reply, Root, in typical fashion, anchored the chase while Hales slammed a scintillating 86-ball 95 at the top to put the hosts on the road to victory. Morgan assessed the situation perfectly after the fall of Hales’s wicket, and shared another fine stand (143) with Root to take the side home.

Root slammed his 10th ODI hundred, battled a twisted ankle he suffered mid way through his innings and coped with the pressure of a chase and the home crowd well to help the team script a win.

England’s strength coming into this tournament was their batting. And in the tournament opener, their strength told. Jason Roy’s form, which deserted him half way through the Indian Premier League, continued to evade him, but Hales, Root and Morgan showed that on a true wicket, scores around the 300-run mark were not going to be a huge challenge for the hosts.

Hales and Root combined for a 159-run stand at a brisk pace. Needing to score more than six an over, the pair ensured England were never behind the eight ball. Where Root nurdled the ball into gaps, Hales bludgeoned them through and over fielders. Root epitomised the touch player that he was, while Hales’s penchant for big hits was only underlined darker. Together they formed an alliance that left the Bangladesh bowlers with little answers. It wasn’t until Hales’s zealousness to get to his hundred with a six cost him his wicket, when he was on 95, that Bangladesh were offered a sniff.

Root, however, had no such ambitions. Despite hobbling with pain, Root elected to put in the hard yards, literally, to get to this hundred in the 43rd over as loud chants of ‘Rooooooot’ echoed around the Kennington Oval. Morgan, sensing that his partner wasn’t in the best position to sneak in quick singles, opted to find the boundaries instead. He brought up his fifty with one such stroke past point off his 45th ball. Morgan did survive a chance earlier, when Tamim Iqbal’s stunning catch at long-on was controversially ruled not out by the third umpire, but that apart there was little Bangladesh could do to break the stand.

England were still not in total control despite their upperhand, and with 60 needed off the last eight overs, needed some big hits to ease the nerves. In Morgan and Root, they had just the men to do that. Root finished the game off in style, with a four off Mosaddek Hossain, ending the innings not out on 133. Morgan was not out 75 off 61 balls.

England’s batting would have put a big smile on their face, but their bowling would have added a couple of worry lines. Chris Woakes limped off the field with a side strain and could be ruled out of more games, while Jake Ball leaked more than 80 runs for the third time in 11 ODIs.

Tamim and Mushfiqur showcased the weak points in the England line-up with a superb show of batsmanship. Tamim went on to notch up his ninth ODI hundred, while Rahim cracked a fine 72-ball 79 to give their side hope of a massive total.

England had opted to go without their frontline spinner, Adil Rashid, and struggled for control through large parts of the innings. Soumya Sarkar flattered to deceive after smashing Ball for a six and two fours in an over, while Imrul Kayes threw away a promising start.

Rahim and Tamim, however, propped up the innings with a splendid stand. Having batted together for more than 25 overs, Bangladesh should have capitalised on the platform provided. However, back-to-back wickets from Liam Plunkett, who ended the innings with figures of four for 59, in the 45th over set them back.

With Tamim and Rahim back in the hut, Bangladesh had two new batsmen at the crease who couldn’t immediately hit the ground running. Sabbir Rahman chipped in with a quickfire 24, but Bangladesh could only muster 46 runs in the last six overs. A phase that not only gave England the momentum, but also the courage to chase down the total with ease.

England assert themselves and send out a warning to the other title contenders, while Bangladesh showed that they were no mere pushovers. As Nasser Hussain put it while on commentary, “the tournament was off to an emphatic start.”

Brief scores: Bangladesh 305/6 in 50 overs (Tamim Iqbal 128, Mushfiqur Rahim 79; Liam Plunkett 4-59) lost to England 308/2 in 47.2 overs (Joe Root 133*, Alex Hales 95, Eoin Morgan 75*; Sabbir Rahman 1/13) by 8 wickets.

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