| England players celebrate the dismissal of an Indian batsman, in Rajkot, on Friday |
Rajkot: The stage to re-enact the happenings of July 13, 2002, at Lord’s, was set when India got off to a flier in pursuit of 326, against England, in the first ODI of the five-match series, on Friday.
In the end, the target and the Lords-like media centre, at the new SCA Stadium, were the only aspects similar to that 2002 day.
The Indian batting line-up, which drew flak for their insipid show of late, did put up a valiant effort. But they couldn’t go beyond 316, losing nine wickets, as England secured a nine-run victory to go 1-0 up in the series.
The chase was gallant, but there were a few dubious decisions on India's part. First was the exclusion was Bengal pacer Shami Ahmed. The youngster was very impressive in his debut outing, against Pakistan, at the Kotla. Yet, he was dropped. For the record, Ishant Sharma, who played Friday's match, gave away 86 runs in his 10 overs.
Also baffling was the decision not to give Yuvraj Singh a bowl. The all-rounder has been very successful with his slow left-armers and there was no reason why he wouldn't be tried on a pitch which was not a fast bowler's paradise.
The hosts tried till the very last moment even though they had a mountain to climb, with 18 runs required in the final over and just a wicket in hand. Ishant Sharma got a thick edge off the first ball of the final over, off Jade Dernbach, which yielded four runs. But thereafter, India could deal only in singles, much to the relief of Alastair Cook and Co.
Credit, however, would go to off-spinner James Tredwell (four for 44) whose figures were certainly outstanding, considering the nature of the track that can only be described as a bowlers’ graveyard.
India raced away to 54 in the first seven overs, with openers Gautam Gambhir (52) and Ajinkya Rahane (47) meting out severe punishment on rival pacers, who got their line horribly wrong to allow the batsmen easy pickings.
The introduction of Tredwell and part-timer Joe Root slowed down the chase and the pressure of giving away too many dot balls got the better of Rahane. He holed out to long-off, as Tredwell picked up his first victim.
In spite of beginning his innings on a rollicking note, Gambhir, too, found it difficult to rotate the strike and eventually perished at mid-wicket, with Tredwell getting his second wicket.
With the England spin duo’s wicket-to-wicket line stifling the Indian batsmen, Tim Bresnan gave another jolt, ensuring Virat Kohli’s torrid run continued. All of a sudden, scoring looked extremely difficult before Dernbach dished out lollypops to Yuvraj Singh (61) in the 28th over, which cost England 13, helping India’s run chase to regain some momentum.
At the other end, Raina (50), too, began scoring quickly after a quiet start. A flurry of boundaries enabled Yuvraj to bring up his 50 off just 38 deliveries, as it were England feeling the pressure then.
But again, Cook handed the ball over to Tredwell and the latter delivered at once to dismiss the dangerous looking Yuvraj. Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni then got together to bring the equation somewhat back in India’s favour. But just as Tredwell did in the previous occasions, he struck in his final over as well to remove Raina.
India’s hopes, though, were alive as long as Dhoni was at the crease. However, for a change, Dernbach’s slower ball fell at the right place to send Dhoni back in the 45th over. Ravindra Jadeja, too, was sent back by Dernbach in the same over. That more or less shut the door on India.
Earlier, England’s imposing total of 325 for four was mainly due to Cook (75) and Ian Bell’s (85) superb 158-run stand that laid the foundation before Samit Patel (42 not out) and Craig Kieswetter (24 not out) finished with a flourish.