From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.10 :: Mar. 10, 2011

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CRICKET / INDIA V ENGLAND (GROUP B)

Dead heat

On a Sunday that wasn't meant for the faint-hearted, all that lingered was the thrill of a surreal contest. And at last, cricket truly reigned. Over to K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

AP

Top-drawer stuff… England's captain Andrew Strauss (right) and Ian Bell shared a 170-run third-wicket partnership that dented India's confidence.

Until Munaf Patel yielded just one run off the last ball to cap a sensational match, the World Cup Group B clash between India and England at the Chinnaswamy Stadium (February 27) was in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It began with the shifting of the match from Kolkata's Eden Gardens to Bangalore which created an uproar in Bengal. Then the inflationary demand for tickets in Bangalore and the resultant melee outside the counters that forced the police to intervene led to frayed tempers. Thereafter, the weather gods too decided to queer the pitch as it rained heavily 48 hours before the match.

Finally, when that Sunday that wasn't meant for the faint-hearted slipped away, all that lingered was the thrill of a surreal contest. And at last, cricket truly reigned. The match will now be remembered for all the right reasons.

“Both teams will have mixed feelings,” quipped the Indian skipper, M. S. Dhoni, while his counterpart, Andrew Strauss, said: “It was an unbelievable match.”

The number 338 will now be a part of cricket folklore as both teams tied at that score.

K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Leading the way... Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his 47th ODI century.

It was a climax that seemed far too distant when India revealed its batting muscle with Sachin Tendulkar leading the way. The maestro watched Virender Sehwag tempt fielders in the very first over bowled by an unlucky James Anderson and later strung two key partnerships of 134 and 56 with Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh respectively as India seemed set to turbo-charge towards a 350-plus total.

Tendulkar's 47th ODI century — 120 (115b, 10x4, 5x6) — commenced at a steady trot before he hinted at his dominant mood, kneeling low and hoisting off-spinner Graeme Swann besides lofting Paul Collingwood and daintily dismissing Anderson off his legs to the square-leg fence.

Prospering in Tendulkar's company, Gambhir danced down the pitch with elan while Yuvraj pulled with panache. Tendulkar made a mockery of whatever challenges that England skipper Strauss tried to throw at him, but eventually paid the price for being too inventive as he moved away to the leg-side and then moved back in a bid to unsettle Anderson. A spooned catch led to a grimace followed by the quick walk to the pavilion while India drew strength from the old firm of Yuvraj and Dhoni.

However, the pursuit of quick runs in the final phase led to injudicious shots, and two run-outs meant India ended up with 338 runs from 49.5 overs. For England, Tim Bresnan grabbed five wickets.

It was a score that could have spoiled England's hunger at the dinner break, but instead it only stoked Strauss' appetite for runs.

On the eve of the match, Strauss had said that he “would love to spoil India's party”. The England skipper proceeded to do exactly that with an innings (158, 145b, 18x4, 1x6) of such culture and stealth that Dhoni and his men did not even realise that they were bleeding runs. After Munaf plucked a reflex catch to terminate Kevin Pietersen's cameo and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla trapped Jonathan Trott, Strauss and Ian Bell shared a 170-run third-wicket partnership that dented India's confidence.

Strauss, who survived a scare on 22 when Harbhajan Singh failed to hold on to a catch at mid-on while Munaf fumed, cut and drove with power and was not averse to using his feet against spin.

K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Zaheer Khan is ecstatic after dismissing Andrew Strauss. The left-arm fast bowler was responsible for bringing India back into the match.

“It is my finest innings but would have been better if I had helped the boys reach home,” Strauss said.

Bell meanwhile survived a referral for leg before wicket. Dhoni said after the match: “If the ball was hitting the stumps according to Hawk Eye — and I too felt the same way — then why not give?”

England, however, suffered a melt-down in the batting Power Play (overs 43 to 47), scoring 25 runs and losing four wickets with Zaheer Khan's dream third spell (three for 11) prising out Bell, Strauss and Paul Collingwood.

In the true ways of a classic, the match was not over yet as the tail stung and Chawla went for runs. “He is a specialist bowler and I thought I will stick with him,” Dhoni said.

It all boiled down to 14 from the last over while Munaf chugged in merrily. He almost lost his smile when Ajmal Shahzad carted him for a six but the seamer held his nerve and a tie proved to be the perfect finish.

THE SCORES

India 338 in 49.5 overs (S. Tendulkar 120, Yuvraj Singh 58, G. Gambhir 51, V. Sehwag 35, M. S. Dhoni 31, T. Bresnan five for 48) tied with England 338 for eight in 50 overs (A. Strauss 158, I. R. Bell 69, K. Pietersen 31, Zaheer three for 64).



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