England too good for India

England’s ODI side, today missing Andrew Flintoff, put out another top notch performance today to beat an Indian side many thought would take this ODI series easily. As they did at the Rose Bowl, they won by putting up a good total, in excess of 280, and taking wickets when they needed them, to prevent India from getting too close.

For the third straight game, the toss was won by Rahul Dravid, who elected to field, backing his seamers to make early inroads. They did look like they might do so, Matt Prior looked all at sea against Zaheer Khan and RP Singh first up, but they were unable to find the edge. Alistair Cook did offer a chance, but RP Singh shelled a relatively simple chance at fine leg.

As the sun came out, batting got easier for England’s opening pair, who took the score to 76, helped by Matt Prior’s decision to go after Munaf Patel, who remained in the side at the expense of Ajit Agarkar. He bowled quite poorly today, five overs for 37, but did make the first breakthrough as Prior failed to control a pull, hoiking it high in the air to Piyush Chawla.

Despite still being in the power play, Dravid decided to bring on the spin of Ramesh Powar, a move that quickly paid off. Using flight effectively, as he did throughout his spell, he enticed Cook to sweep a ball he shouldn’t have done, and the result was the easiest of catches for Yuvraj Singh at short fine leg.

Powar’s spin partner, Piyush Chawla was brought on at the other end, and together they did a good job of stemming the flow of early runs, tying the batsmen down. Chawla was also able to take the important wicket of Kevin Pietersen for just 9, who was stumped after being deceived again by the 18 year old’s googly.

Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell the preceded to add 75 for the fourth wicket, they weren’t able to take as many singles off the spinners as they should have done, but boundaries were available. India’s fielding was also poor, allowing England to sneak several on overthrows, and to turn many singles into twos. The pair set England up well for a big acceleration, but the plan was hampered slightly as Collingwood reverse swept straight to short third man, the ball after an orthodox sweep feel just out of the reach of Yuvraj.

England might not have been able to add quite as many as they would have liked throughout the last ten overs, losing wickets regularly, but all the lower order contributed at least one boundary, to take them to 281-8, Bell top scoring with 79.

282 was India’s target, and they began slowly as James Anderson and Stuart Broad hit their spots. The first ten overs yielded 35 runs, almost half of those coming in a single over where Ganguly spanked Anderson for four boundaries. Despite this, Anderson was able to take the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, a short one guided straight to Paul Collingwood at backward point. Karthik fell in the next over to Stuart Broad, in a very similar fashion to Tendulkar, with Alistair Cook the catcher this time.

With Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid though, India were able to regroup, and move into a strong position. They added 104, without letting India slip too far behind the required rate, and both, as one would expect, played some excellent strokes. Dravid again showed his ability to play aggressively, scoring at almost a run a ball, while Ganguly anchored the partnership.

England’s crucial breakthrough eventually came from Chris Tremlett, who was brought back by Collingwood after his first pair of overs cost 20 runs. Rahul Dravid played on, and as if that wasn’t enough, in his next over Ganguly got the ball a little too fine when trying to guide to third man and it was caught by a leaping Matt Prior.

India were by no means out of the hunt though, with the dangerous Dhoni and Yuvraj at the crease. England though, continued their strategy of bowling back of a length to Dhoni, and once again it paid dividends before he could do some damage, he slapped a cut to Collingwood to give Anderson his second wicket, with Dhoni scoring 13.

That was when India’s hope started to fade rapidly. They had no specialist batsman left, the required run rate began to rocket, and despite Yuvraj playing very well for his 45, they were unable to get close in the end, and the eventual margin of defeat was 42 runs as the last wicket fell on 239.

India were simply outplayed by England today. England’s bowlers kept it tighter early, and took wickets, and they broke the big partnership before it did too much damage. India may be regretting the decision to bat Powar at seven; Yuvraj lacked the support he needed to keep India in the game. India also need to look at their fielding, England really put to them to shame in the field yet again.

England 281-8
Ian Bell 79, Paul Collingwood 44
RP Singh 3-55, Ramesh Powar 2-45

India 239
Sourav Ganguly 72, Rahul Dravid 56
James Anderson 3-32, Paul Collingwood 2-45, Chris Tremlett 2-57

England win by 42 runs and take a 2-1 lead in the series with four to play

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Ian Bell

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