England take 3-1 lead

A record 8th wicket partnership of 99 for England in ODI’s between Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad secured England a 3-1 lead with three games to play.

The feeling once India had batted first, was that they had not scored enough with their total of 212 all out off 49.4 overs. However, it looked at one point as though it was going to be more than enough when England were floundering at 114-7.

Step forward Bopara and Broad, who both demonstrated temperaments that belied their years and inexperience, and techniques that had India wondering why these two were batting so low.

Bopara had of course been here before, during the World Cup against Sri Lanka when he took England to the very brink of an unlikely victory but could not quite get his side over the line. With that in mind, his determination to see it through this time was evident, and with Broad as an unexpected yet accomplished batting ally they chipped away at the total, bringing the chasing target down in tens, and when Broad pushed one to mid on, the vigil was complete.

India won the toss and elected to have a bat, the skies were somewhat overcast and the prospect of batting uder lights simply did not appeal to India captain Rahul Dravid. The visitors opted for Ajit Agarkar, to add some batting depth, ahead of Munaf Patel.

England recalled all-rounder Andrew Flintoff in place of Chris Tremlett, while captain Paul Collingwood had recovered from his stomach complaints.

The Indian openers were once again restricted early on, with Broad and Jimmy Anderson finding their range, and not allowing India’s strokemakers any freedom.

When Sourav Ganguly attempted a pull off Anderson, it simply looped to Ian Bell at square leg. Dinesh Karthik handed Broad his first wicket of the day, chasing a short and wide delivery and succeeding only in nicking it through to Prior.

The following over ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was called on to bowl, and it did not take long for him to re-acquaint himself with his home crowd, when he had dangerman Rahul Dravid fishing outside his off stump to give Prior another victim.

Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh then held the fort for the next 17.3 overs. It was not as fluent a partnership as one may expect from two silky and attractive batsmen. Flintoff was not making life any easier for them, his first five overs included three maidens. How happy the Indians must have been when he was cleared to play.

Despite not being at his best Tendulkar brought his fifty up off 81 balls, but he had no sooner reached the landmark, before Kevin Pietersen was brought on and duly dismissed the little master. It was in all honesty, nothing short of a long hop that Tendulkar mis-timed, and was snaffled by the bucket-like hands of Flintoff at deep square leg.

Yuvraj continued to try and build a respectable score for India but he was short of willing company at the crease. MS Dhoni fell to a typical Panesar delivery, spinning and clipping off stump, before Agarkar edged through to Prior off Broad.

Yuvraj’s fifty came up in some style. Broad banged the ball in short and Yuvraj rocked back and pulled it over the boundary for a maximum. Broad had his revenge when he yorked Yuvraj on leg stump for 71 in the 45th over.

Both Zaheer (20) and Piyush Chawla (13*) made useful contributions down the order, but with only 212 on the board, India needed them to do it with the ball. Stuart Broad achieved his best ODI figures to date, registering 4-51 off his 10 overs. Anderson again impressive, and Flintoff typically measly.

India received the perfect tonic at the start of England’s run chase. Alistair Cook was removed by Zaheer without scoring, and Prior cut the ball in the air to third man, where Ramesh Powar completed the catch off Agarkar. When Ian Bell left one off Agarkar that smashed into his off stump, India were understandably buoyant, the home side were 35-3. The Indians were visibly pumped up for this one, and the chat was continuous.

Pietersen looked to be settling in before mis-timing a hook shot, and Agarkar had three wickets.

Collingwood was steadying the ship, and looking good doing it. His timing was near perfect, as he punched a number of drives at the top of the bounce.

Sadly Flintoff’s return with the bat was nowhere near as impressive as with the ball, and he drove aerially to Yuvraj at point. Owais Shah gloved to Karthik at short leg, before Bopara dabbed one to point and Collingwood called for a single, after a hint of indecision, Collingwood was caught short of his ground.

That brought Broad together with Bopara for the match winning partnership. The composure shown by the two youngsters, both in only their 13th game, was a joy for England fans and management alike, to see.

Broad began his cricketing life as a batsman and it is easy to see why. His punches off his back foot are rarely seen from a number 9. Bopara was efficient, solid in defence and excellent in putting the loose ball away.

So it turned out to be a heart breaking defeat from India who now face the uphill task of needing to win the remianing 3 ODI’s to win the series.

India 212
Yuvraj Singh 71, Sachin Tendulkar 55
Stuart Broad 4-51, James Anderson 3-38

England 213-7
Paul Collingwood 47, Stuart Broad 45*, Ravi Bopara 43*
Ajit Agarkar 4-60

England won by 3 wickets

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