England roll over again

India began their Champions Trophy campaign with a stuttering four-wicket win over England today, with the bowlers the stars as the visitors were rolled out for just 125. Munaf Patel and Ramesh Powar took three wickets each as England’s batsmen failed to cope on a pitch that only marginally favoured the bowlers. Two cheap wickets by England’s own off-spinner, Jamie Dalrymple, were not enough to prevent Yuvraj Singh from guiding the hosts to a shaky victory.

Having been inserted by India on losing the toss, England wasted no time in showing that they had not improved since their poor showings in the one-day series against Pakistan last month – when Ian Bell became the first to fall, albeit dubiously, the score read only 10. Andrew Flintoff’s elevation to number three in the order proved a comprehensive failure when he followed Bell in being trapped in front – this time the bowler was Pathan, the batsman’s score was nought, and the umpire’s decision was correct.

Michael Yardy also found himself promoted, to number four in the order, but he also perished early, lbw to Munaf Patel for only 4. The score read 17 for 3, and once again England found themselves looking toward Kevin Pietersen to rescue them from a dire situation. Pietersen provided a brief blast of entertainment, stepping down the pitch on more than one occasion to ruin Ajit Agarkar’s figures, but soon became Patel’s third victim when he steered to slip on 27.

Paul Collingwood and Jamie Dalrymple took it upon themselves to rebuild the innings partially – they added 49 for the sixth wicket after Andrew Strauss had wafted at a delivery from Pathan and edged to second slip. Both nudged and nurdled as they are prone to do, taking few risks and slowly working England towards what could have been a respectable total. However, soon enough India’s spinners began to get a grip on the game, and the tide turned comprehensively toward the home side.

Ramesh Powar claimed first Collingwood, then Chris Read – to a horribly out-of-context shot – and finally Dalrymple, as England’s lower-middle order collapsed under moderate pressure for the umpteenth time this year. The tail were polished off quickly, with Powar’s sharp but slightly lucky run-out of James Anderson bringing the innings to a close on 125 all out.

India’s reply began in dramatic fashion, with Steve Harmison’s first ball a wide that beat the keeper and raced to the boundary – indeed, it was a wide that may well still have been called had the batsman been standing on the adjoining strip. His first over cost 20, and although Virender Sehwag’s aggression got the better of him midway through, Sachin Tendulkar wasted no time in ripping into the Durham seamer when given the opportunity.

Tendulkar’s elegant 35 was another indication that those recent reports of the demise of his batting had been greatly exaggerated. It was a surprise when he perished, lbw to Harmison, with the score on 98 for 3. In between times, James Anderson had claimed two wickets on his comeback to international cricket, those of Pathan and Dravid – India were wobbling slightly, and when Mahendra Dhoni and Suresh Raina both fell to Dalrymple with the score on 119, there must have been fears of a very late collapse.

However, Yuvraj Singh’s composed 27 not out guided his side home, and they began their campaign with a nervy, but nevertheless fairly comfortable, four-wicket victory. England have some serious cracks to fill in before they take on the Australians later in the group – on this form, they will prove no match.

England 125 all out (37 overs)
Paul Collingwood 38; Ramesh Powar 3-24

India 126-6 (29.3 overs)
Sachin Tendulkar 35; Jamie Dalrymple 2-5

Cricket Web Player of the Match – Ramesh Powar, 3-24

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