From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.38 :: Sep. 22, 2011
In a tube train to the Oval, two strangers, split by generations but fused by their love for cricket, discussed the ‘frailties' of the Indian team at length. “No bowlers,” the senior man said and the youngster, wearing a blue jersey with Yuvraj Singh's name scribbled behind, spoke about the team's dismal run in the Tests.
Their optimism about a fresh Indian win still remained high and they soon merged with the crowd that slipped into the Oval for the third match of the NatWest Series on a Friday afternoon. For the two fans and the rest of the blue brigade, it proved to be another day of loss and longing after England defeated India by three wickets to gain a vice-like grip on the series at 2-0.
India scored 234 for seven in 50 overs, and once the rain queered the pitch, England had to score 218 from 43 overs. That was accomplished despite the mid-innings nerves against spinners Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin. The loss dealt another body blow to India, which had its brief spells of dominance during England's chase.
Ahead of the game, Ajinkya Rahane spoke about his desire to do well for the team and snatch victories. Rahane, along with Parthiv Patel, had shown the way in the previous games though India never built on those avenues. In a tour where India has suffered agony, its top-order had offered some respite in the limited overs contests, but in keeping with the trend of inexplicable stumbles, Rahane, Rahul Dravid and Parthiv Patel were gone with just 13 on the board.
Alastair Cook's decision to field on winning the toss was vindicated by James Anderson's (three for 48) swing that sparkled under overcast skies. Rahane was out for a blob, Parthiv failed to cut loose as the seamers bowled a fuller length and a scampering Dravid failed to beat Anderson the fielder. Anderson snapped up Virat Kohli while an aggressive Suresh Raina stretched to slam one down the ground and feathered Stuart Broad.
M. S. Dhoni then settled down to his regular style of nudging the runs and using the odd booming stroke to lend ballast to the Indian batting. Dhoni found in Jadeja a comrade-in-arms. Making a comeback, coping with delays in getting the United Kingdom's visa and walking into a situation that screamed crisis in bold letters, Jadeja played the most significant innings of his nascent career.
The Indian captain (69, 103b, 5x4) and Jadeja (78, 89b, 10x4), through their 112-run sixth-wicket partnership, forced Cook's men to forget their plans of an early dinner. Dhoni watched Jadeja hold his ground with a firm head and fluent runs through the off-side.
“We never had any doubts about Jadeja's bowling though earlier we had a bit of a concern about his batting, but he has kept improving and he is a more complete player now,” Dhoni said.
The duo might have helped India post a better total but Dhoni fell off the first ball of the batting Power Play taken in the 44th over. Jadeja then motored on unhindered and Ashwin played some remarkable strokes at the death to guide India to a respectable total though it did not have enough strength to test England's batting. “We were short by 30 odd runs,” said Dhoni.
Later, Jadeja and Ashwin combined well to choke England after Craig Kieswetter (51, 46b, 3x4, 3x6) and Cook charted a 63-run opening partnership. Kieswetter was dropped by Munaf Patel on 41 as the bowler failed to hold on in his follow through.
Munaf then trapped Cook and while the skies darkened, Kieswetter's bravado against the quicks suddenly seemed distant. The opener was rattled by Jadeja as the left-arm spinner slipped one through the gate. Dhoni, sensing an opportunity, tightened the inner circle, opted for traditional fields for spin and watched Jadeja and Ashwin raise an aggressive tempo against the diffident batsmen. Ashwin then knocked out Jonathan Trott's stumps with the carom ball and the fielders were buzzing around new-comer Ben Stokes.
The wet weather forecast, at last, rang true and as the players trooped out, England was ahead at 95 for three in 20 overs while the Duckworth-Lewis method required the host to be on par at 90 for three. Resuming after a one-hour break, England needed 123 from 23 overs and the remainder of the chase was all about the batsmen staying just enough to reduce the target and the spinners striking often to keep India in the hunt.
Ian Bell and Stokes scattered Jadeja a bit but the spinners stayed alive. Dhoni then caught Bell napping outside the crease and Ashwin castled Stokes. England found relief in the 60-run sixth-wicket partnership between Ravi Bopara (40) and Tim Bresnan. The two fell to Ashwin and Jadeja and that proved to be India's last tilt at breaking through England's resistance as Broad and Graeme Swann avoided further alarms and ensured that England would not lose the series.
India: Parthiv Patel b Anderson 3, A. Rahane c Trott b Anderson 0, R. Dravid (run out) 2, V. Kohli c Kieswetter b Anderson 7, S. Raina c Kieswetter b Broad 21, M. S. Dhoni c Cook b Bresnan 69, R. Jadeja c Bell b Dernbach 78, R. Ashwin (not out) 36, Praveen Kumar (not out) 1. Extras (lb-7, w-10) 17; Total (for seven wkts., in 50 overs): 234.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-9, 3-13, 4-25, 5-58, 6-170, 7-229.
England bowling: Anderson 9-1-48-3, Bresnan 10-2-32-1, Dernbach 10-1-53-1, Broad 9-1-47-1, Swann 10-0-31-0, Bopara 2-0-16-0.
England: A. Cook lbw b Munaf 23, C. Kieswetter b Jadeja 51, J. Trott b Ashwin 11, I. Bell (run out) 23, B. Stokes b Ashwin 20, R. Bopara b Ashwin 40, T. Bresnan b Jadeja 28, S. Broad (not out) 5, G. Swann (not out) 9. Extras (b-2, lb-3, w-3): 8; Total (for seven wkts., in 41.5 overs): 218.
Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-87, 3-89, 4-131, 5-133, 6-193, 7-208.
India bowling: Praveen 4-0-20-0, R. P. Singh 6-0-32-0, Munaf 8.5-0-63-1, Jadeja 9-0-42-2, Ashwin 9-0-40-3, Raina 5-0-16-0.
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