James Lawton: Shikhar Dhawan's explosive arrival proves Champions Trophy is a tournament worthy of being saved
He pummelled his first ball after the rain break high and square for a six
It says a lot for the Champions Trophy that even in the rain of Edgbaston there was reason to believe it had already done enough. Enough, this was, to keep its place in the money-grabbing circus otherwise known as international cricket. If this is indeed so – as must be the hope of all those who believe the game should retain as much of its subtlety of thought and beauty of action as it can – maybe in the future more effort will be made to ensure a satisfactory conclusion.
The late scrambling between the showers for a result in something which, as perversely as you could have imagined, had been reduced to a Twenty20 contest, was never going to come into that category.
Certainly not in the English perspective after the onset of panic which gave India another one-day bauble. England had the foundation to end their time in the 50-over desert – but not the nerve to see the job done when M S Dhoni, again the supreme master puppeteer of the short game, brilliantly manipulated the threat of his spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin.
It was a brief, and for England, humiliating conclusion to a story that had promised breakthrough achievement. However, glistening in the raindrops was a huge reason why so many have been moved to see that this is a tournament capable of brilliant action and a proper sense of superior competition.
It was the thrilling sight of Shikhar Dhawan doing something quite extraordinary. The batting revelation of this and perhaps many other years returned to the wicket after the first rain break to shatter one of the least contended theories of the game. It is that batsmen are invariably more easily detached from the rhythm of their work. The emerging truth these last few weeks is that short of organising a full scale avalanche the distracting of Dhawan is one of the least rewarding ambitions.
Stuart Broad, who had earlier dismissed Dhawan's formidable opening partner Rohit Sharma, could have done better with his first delivery after returning from the dressing room, but he could not have expected quite such a crushing rebuke.
Dhawan pummelled him high and square for a six. It was as exhilarating as a Cossack leap and when the batsman returned to earth you couldn't avoid trawling back through his quite extraordinary crusade. That it should end so soon after a second interruption, with a mere 31 runs against his name, when he miscued a shot from Ravi Bopara's slower ball surely brought a sense of loss that went beyond his own fast growing legion of Indian fans.
Maybe we should have been more prepared for his onslaught on the tournament. After all, a man who arrives, after being so bizarrely detained on the boundaries of big-time cricket for so long, with a Test average of 187, is not likely to remain anonymous for too long.
It was one of many regrets yesterday that the opening duel between Dhawan and James Anderson was, because of the curtailment of the overs, so brief. Anderson's beautiful bowling was another reason why this Champions Trophy was so quickly seen to be something worth preserving and no Madison Square Garden match-maker could have conjured a more intriguing and potentially climactic duel. The absurdity of not having another chance today to settle the matter in proper fashion over the full allocation of overs was still one more reason to complain about the cluttered programme of the international game.
Former England captain Michael Atherton, a man of the world but one with the dogged streak of a purist, was particularly withering about the fact that coming almost immediately will be two utterly inconsequential Twenty20 matches between England and New Zealand.
Yet amid such irrelevance, such a wearisome failure to understand that the value of any game is dependent on a degree of freshness, a renewed appetite both in those who play and those who watch, there is still the heartening impact of this Champions Trophy.
Nor should we be too concerned that the likely victim of its survival is the airy plan to have a Test match play-off involving a semi-final and final. It is, when you think about it, a contradiction in terms. Tests are not designed for semis and finals and the rewards and punishments that come with the ebb and flow of passing form. They are what they are, they are Tests of the enduring mood and form of the game's best players.
What the 50-over game has proved here is that in the proper environment of high quality competition it can occupy valuable ground all of its own. It is inhabited not by frenzy, well it wasn't until England found their various ways of self-destruction in the final over, but calculation and nerve. A wicket has a value and the vital trick is to preserve it – or risk it – according to the needs of the team. In the end India's Virat Kohli made the most vital contribution, one which England must have believed Jonathan Trott would, on earlier evidence, have surpassed.
It was unfortunate that last night England's failed effort to win their first 50-over tournament had already been compromised by the Birmingham weather. They had, however, done their work well and played hard for most of the tournament. They had also run close a new and brilliant generation of Indian cricketers.
This was, surely, reason enough to join the chorus that says cricket is right to rescue the Champions Trophy.
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