Margao: A handful of England supporters in the North Stand were carrying a coffin at the end of the match to signify the virtual end of their challenge in the TVS Cup on Monday. It may not be too early to write off the visitors, considering the inability that they have shown to live up to challenges so far in the series. A 7-0 scoreline is what the bookies may lay their bets on in the coming days.
If Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina were the ones who did the star turn in the previous two games, it was Yuvraj Singh who took it away from England with an innings that left the visitors dazed and clueless in the third one-day International. He found a suitable ally in Raina as the fifth wicket pair added 142 runs in 126 balls. The carnival had begun well before England collapsed and India’s maiden win at the Nehru Stadium became a reality.
“A target of 295 was like a mountain to climb under the conditions,” Andrew Flintoff said later. “We gave away at least 50 more runs on the field.”
It showed in the visitors’ attitude as they lost their first six wickets with barely 100 runs on the board. The batsmen lacked both the application and the mentality to go for the chase. The inexperience in the batting order showed, as most of their batsmen fell to soft dismissals.
That there was no real threat in the wicket showed when Paul Collingwood and Geraint Jones batted with authority. The seventh wicket pair put on 105 runs, but it was not enough to raise visions of a turnaround. His 93 off 84 balls could have come in handy had Flintoff not brought about his dismissal with an atrocious stroke.
The 49-run victory seemed easy in the end. There was hardly any moment when Rahul Dravid felt insecure in the middle.
Even when the Collingwood-Jones partnership flourished, they did not have enough overs in hand to put the Indians under real test.
Despite MoM Yuvraj’s brilliance, top-order blues continued to haunt the Indians. A new opening combination in Dravid and Virender Sehwag ' Gautam Gambhir and Sreesanth were rested from the Faridabad side with Munaf Patel And Ajit Agarkar coming in ' hardly showed the zeal to turn things around. Sehwag looked woefully out of touch in his tentative approach.
The Team India captain unnecessarily made things difficult against some pretty ordinary bowling. He invited undue pressure as even Irfan Pathan seemed bent on pushing and prodding.
Even then, 78 runs came during their second wicket association in 16.1 overs, mainly due to their ability to keep the singles going. While Dravid’s 46 took 59 balls, the generally more adventurous Pathan needed 63 balls for his 36. He batted as if runs were like jewels, as valuable and as rare.
If Mohammed Kaif’s fourth duck in a row suddenly sent alarm bells ringing, Yuvraj’s commanding innings took the wind out of the visitors’ sail. He was bent on groping and grinding out as many runs as possible.
The Punjab lefthander’s 76-ball 103, the seventh hundred of his career, was a controlled effort, directing the tempo of the match, its nature and its result. He seemed to have recovered the form that saw him earn the MoS award in Pakistan not many days ago.
Raina’s 61 once again showed that he is here to stay. Showing maturity beyond his years, he rotated the strike and never allowed the run-rate to go down. They added 98 runs in the last ten overs, which show their control over the circumstances. Having enjoyed a “life” on 13, he never allowed it to affect his concentration and went about his task of admonishing the attack. A six off Sajid Mahmood particularly stood out.
Greg Chappell was effusive in his praise. “Irfan is not an express bowler. He is more of a swing bowler who uses his variations subtly and did the trick today.”
The five bowler combination, including three pacers, did not really turn out to be a masterstroke since the slower bowlers were more suited to the conditions. It resulted in Yuvraj having to roll his arms for three overs.
Harbhajan Singh was once again among wickets, but Romesh Powar showed that he can’t be reduced to the sidelines. The Mumbai offie has been useful in the series and despite not getting any wickets in this match, he is certain to be in Chappell’s scheme of things for the World Cup. The wider the pool of players, the better for Indian cricket because it allows more competition and flexibility.