India and England produce a thriller

What an exhilarating match of one-day cricket that was! India and England produced batting of the highest quality and superb death bowling in one of the most memorable matches of recent times. The tied encounter showed the promise of one-day cricket and that it is here to stay.

Faced with a mammoth 339 to win the crucial Group B match at a packed Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, England approached the task in right earnest. Kevin Pietersen and skipper Andrew Strauss punished the Indian seamers with runs behind square. Harbhajan missed a catch off Strauss in the 6th over which turned out to be very costly for India. Munaf Patel was not as effective with the new ball as he was with the old ball against Bangladesh in Mirpur.

Pietersen played a couple of beautiful straight drives to keep the asking rate within reach and then cut over point and glanced behind square for boundaries as he looked in ominous touch. In the 10th over, Pietersen could not keep a straight drive down and Munaf Patel fumbled with the catch on his follow through but succeeded in holding it in the second attempt. It was a very vital wicket for India.

As the spinners – Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh – came into the attack, Strauss and Trott swept them for boundaries. In the 17th over, Chawla pitched one on leg stump and the ball turned back into the right handed Trott and hit him on the pads in front of middle and leg and was given out lbw. The Indians seem to have struck at the right time. However, Strauss had other ideas. He continued to attack, pulling and sweeping Yuvraj for four.

In the last ball of the 25th over, Ian Bell played well forward to a ball from Yuvraj and the ball rapped him on the pads. The Indians were convinced he was out but the umpire Billy Bowden was not. A review was called for and replays showed that the ball would have hit the stumps even though the distance between the impact and the stumps was more than 2.5 meters. The third umpire ruled Bell not out to the utter shock of the Indian camp. The game was on.

Strauss duly brought up a well deserved hundred off just 99 balls in the 28th over. As the partnership grew, the Indian shoulders drooped and the fielders started making mistakes. Strauss launched Yuvraj straight down the ground for a massive six in the 33rd over and in the very next over Bell lofted Chawla to the long on boundary for another six to bring up his fifty. With the batting Powerplay not taken yet, England looked comfortably placed to achieve the target.

The batting Powerplay was taken in the 43rd over when England were 280/2 and well on course for victory. Dhoni handed the ball to Zaheer who struck immediately. First, he had Bell miscue a shot into the air and the ball went to Virat Kohli at mid off who did not make a mistake this time after he had dropped a sharp chance at slip earlier. The very next ball, Zaheer fired in a yorker and trapped Strauss in front of the wicket. Two wickets in two balls and India were back in to the match.

In his very next over, Zaheer struck again as he pitched the ball on a length and Paul Collingwood tried to play a cross batted swipe but missed and saw his stumps in disarray. England were having a horrendous batting Powerplay. Michael Yardy was sent ahead of Tim Bresnan to score some quick runs. Matt Prior then decided to heave Harbhajan but the ball popped up straight to midwicket where substitute fielder Suresh Raina took the catch.

In the 48th over, Yardy tried to pull the ball over fine leg but only succeeded in giving a catch to Sehwag at short fine leg. It looked like the Indians would shut England out but fortunes had swung wildly in this match and there was time for another of those swings. Dhoni opted for a spinner – Chawla – in the 49th over. He was forced to do so as Zaheer had finished his quota of overs. Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan struck a six each in the over to bring down the target to 12 off the final over, though Bresnan was dismissed off the last ball attempting another big shot.

England held their nerve admirably in the last over. Ajmal Shahzad hit a six to bring the equation down to 5 in 3 balls. They finally needed 2 off the last ball and had to be content with one and the match was tied.

It would not have been so close had India shown some more discipline in batting through the last 5 overs after winning the toss. 338 was a very good total but the Indians could easily have scored 360 but their lower order batsmen committed hara-kiri as they lost 7 wickets in the last five overs for only 46 runs.

Sehwag’s stay at the crease was eventful. The first ball that he faced was edged though slips for four, and two leading edges in the same over did not carry. He carried on in his inimitable fashion and the runs came quickly enough for India. Tim Bresnan, who came on as first change, had Sehwag edge behind for Matt Prior to take a good catch. That started the most productive partnership for the Indians.

Tendulkar had got his eye in and did not open up until the 9th over when he flicked a ball to square for four and followed that up with a glance past short fine leg for another four. Gambhir used his feet against the spinners as he lofted Swann to the long on boundary for four runs and later lofted the same bowler over cover for another four. Tendulkar, too, chose to attack Swann as he hit a four straight over the bowler’s head.

The introduction of Paul Collingwood into the attack prompted Tendulkar to shift his gears a higher notch. He launched the bowler for a six over the long off boundary in the 18th over. He continued to attack Collingwood and hit a six over midwicket and brought up his fifty off 66 balls. The carnage continued as he lofted Swann for consecutive sixes in the 27th over – one over long-on and the next over midwicket. Boundaries flowed freely as England wilted under the attack. Gambhir brought up his own fifty off 59 balls courtesy an inside edge that went for four runs.

Soon, Gambhir was dismissed. He tried to play down the off side, missed the ball and lost his stumps. He had changed his bat the previous delivery and did this contribute to the dismissal? In a strange move, Dhoni sent Yuvraj ahead of the in-form Kohli. Yuvraj showed that he was in fine nick through an on drive which fetched four runs. Tendulkar brought up his 47th one-day century in the 35th over with a glance down to the fine-leg boundary. He celebrated that with his fifth six, this time again over long on.

The Indians opted for the batting Powerplay in the 37th over. Regular boundaries followed before Sachin got a leading edge off James Anderson only to see Yardy pouching the opportunity running from mid-on. The wicket slowed the momentum a little as the Powerplay yielded only 32 runs.

Dhoni and Yuvraj took the mantle of scoring the runs and India was sitting pretty at 292/3 in the 45th over. Some impressive death bowling by Tim Bresnan and some insensible batting by the tail resulted in India being bowled out for 338 in 49.5 overs. The last pair was separated by a run-out when they went for a second run. However, the umpire called one short, so the one run that the pair had taken was disallowed. This coupled with the fact that they wasted the last ball of the over, will come to haunt India.

India probably had to settle for a tie because of the above as well as Dhoni’s poor choice of Chawla for the 49th over. He inexplicably finished off Zaheer Khan’s spell earlier which meant if Chawla went for runs it was going to be very difficult. The bowling department have some major improvements to make as they were left exposed. India will not win the World Cup with this bowling attack unless they make drastic improvements to the way they are going to bowl at batsmen.

England will also need to ponder their bowling, especially that of James Anderson. He was pathetic today as he was against Netherlands the other night. Shahzad is no match for Broad so England will pray Broad is fit for the matches ahead. England were saved today only because Strauss played a majestic innings and Bell was not given out in that strange incident.

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I'm an avid reader and writer. Reading gets me a feeling of understanding the world through different perspectives and writing helps me outline my thoughts from the cobwebs that the mind has trapped it in!

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