| Flint-Stone! MoM Andrew Flintoff leaves The Oval after smashing a typically swashbuckling 99 against India at The Oval on Friday. Flintoff struck four sixes and shared a record England fifth-wicket stand of 174 with Paul Collingwood (79 not out). (AFP)
London: A beleaguerd India plunged to a new low with another pathetic display as England thrashed them by 70 runs in the second one-day International to clinch the three-match NatWest Challenge at The Oval on Friday.
After Andrew Flintoff’s blitzkrieg of a 99 from 93 balls propelled England to 307 for five, the Indian batsmen proved they had no stomach to make a fight of it and were all out for 237 in 46.3 overs.
Except for winning the toss, nothing went right for Sourav Ganguly whose team has spiralled from one defeat to another since the Asia Cup final in July.
Virender Sehwag — playing in his 100th ODI — continued to fail. The confusion that resulted in Ganguly’s run out was an old problem which revisited the team at the wrong time.
V.V.S. Laxman and Mohammad Kaif once again wasted good starts but Rahul Dravid’s atrocious slash outside off to gift his wicket cheaply was most un-Dravid like.
A new 10th-wicket partnership record of 64 runs between Harbhajan Singh (41 not out) and Lakshmipathy Balaji (18) was too little and too late in the day for any kind of consolation.
England came into the series with three successive Test series wins over the West Indies and New Zealand, and the triumph over India should help them overcome any self- doubts about their capabilities as a one-day team.
Man-of-the-Match Flintoff, who has been central to England’s resurgence, lived upto his growing reputation as the number one allrounder. The 26-year old Lancastrian hit four sixes and nine fours to send Indians on a leather hunt.
Paul Collingwood, with an unbeaten 79 from 85 balls, provided the right support to the burly right-hander. The duo added 174, England’s best against any team for the fifth wicket, improving upon the 143 Robin Smith and Graham Thorpe collaborated against Australia in 1993.
Their association helped England overcome a brief slump when they lost four wickets for 34 runs.
Harbhajan Singh, coming in place of Anil Kumble, claimed two for 14 from his 10 overs on the trot to put the brakes on England run-flow.
In combination with part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag (two for 51), Harbhajan had England dancing to his tune after Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki had given them a rousing start.
Rahul Dravid took sharp catches down the leg standing upto the spinners and the wheels seemed to come of the England innings before Flintoff and Collingwood wrested the initiative back from the Indians.
Though The Oval track helped seam movement, its true bounce and carry was perfect for strokemaking. And if there was any juice on the fresh pitch, the generous Indian seamers helped the England openers settle down quickly.
The first 10 overs saw 65 runs, mainly through boundaries. Solanki drove and flicked with elegance for a sparkling 48 with eight fours.
Sachin fitness test
Sachin Tendulkar’s availability for the ICC Champions Trophy will depend on his clearing a fitness test on the sidelines of the third and final match of the NatWest Challenge series on SSunday.