Thursday, 20 October 2011

India keep their cool in stiff chase

With one resounding six a few months ago, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had sealed the World Cup win for India. With two powerfully struck fours, he sealed a series win today that helped soothe a part of the Indians' wounds from their disastrous low in the England tour after the giddy high of the World Cup win. 

With 7 runs required off the final over the match, Dhoni hit two consecutive boundaries to give India a 5-wicket win and an unassailable 3-0 lead in the ODI series. 

The day began with Alastair Cook winning the toss and choosing to bat in what was a must-win game for England to stay alive in the series. Their performance in this match was also reflective of that and particularly in batting - it was a vastly improved show from the first two ODIs that had seen England get hammered by 126 runs and 8 wickets respectively. 

England began slowly, losing Cook early on, but Kieswetter soon picked up the pace. When he fell to the innocuous bowling of Virat Kohli, it brought Pietersen and Trott together for the first of two significant partnerships for England. Pietersen was the more free-flowing partner, while Trott concentrated on holding his end up and getting the singles. The stand soon grew big with Pietersen crossing a faster than run-a-ball half-century and Trott nearing his. The stand was a 101-runs old when Ravindra Jadeja rapped Pietersen on the pads and the umpire upheld a vociferous shout to send him on his way for 64 off 61 balls. That left England 154/3 in 29.1 overs. They were well placed to get to a total of 280-plus, but the man who eventually got them there was Samit Patel. He and Jonathan Trott also shared a century stand, but a much more quickfire one. The 103 they put on came off just 71 balls, with the cornerstone of the stand being Samit Patel's maiden ODI fifty. He ended up with 70 not out off just 43 balls, while Trott was slightly unlucky to end with 98 not out from 116 balls - missing a hundred by a narrow margin. It gave England a sizeable 298/4 on board, and their best chance of victory in the series so far. 

However, from the start, India's reply ensured that England didn't get full control of the match at any point. Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane both came good after some recent disappointments to give India a good launch-pad. Parthiv fell to Bresnan for 38, but there followed India's best period with the bat with Gautam Gambhir joining Rahane in the middle. Both men got to their half-centuries, and both didn't take too long to get there. 

India looked in complete control of the chase when these two were building their stand, and unless a dramatic shift happened, India looked set to romp home. 

However, drama is exactly what happened. It started with Gautam Gambhir's dismissal, with Pietersen taking a smart catch off Steve Finn to send him back for 58 off 60. The second wicket stand had been worth 111 runs and had come off just 106 balls. Gambhir's wicket, however, heralded a mini-collapse of sorts, with Rahane also departing soon after and Raina going without troubling the scorers. Rahane had made a very impressive return to form with 91 off 104 and the young man was disappointed at not getting to a maiden ton, but the fact that he was able to shrug off earlier failures and be the guiding force for a large part of a stiff chase, means he will have an opportunity to score a ton before long. 

From 190/1 in 33.1 overs, India had slid to 217/4 in 38.4 overs - a sequence of 27/3 in 5.3 overs. When Virat Kohli fell lbw to Swann to make it 235/5, India had their last recognized pair of Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja at the crease, and the equation was 64 runs to win from 50 balls. 

Both men didn't let the the required run-rate overwhelm them, and kept picking off singles and twos, even as the odd boundary ball presented itself and was taken full toll of. With 30 required off the final 3 overs, Steve Finn was called back into the attack and he went for 13 runs with each of Dhoni and Jadeja striking fours. Dernbach bowled the next over, which also went for 10 runs after which Dhoni whacked the two boundaries that sealed the series for India. Dhoni ended up with 35 off 31 while Jadeja had 26 off 24. 

It had been England's best show in the series so far, with the bowlers too making the Indians work a lot harder for runs than they had in the first two ODIs. However, England's fielding was atrocious and several notches below that of the Indians - who continued the good fielding of the series, apart from a few stray blemishes. England might have had a win to their name and kept their chances alive if they had fielded better, especially given the close nature of the match, and that is something they'd like to ponder on if they are to avoid a white-wash in the series. 

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