India level series in thriller

India levelled the seven match ODI series against England today after scraping through a high scoring affair on a flat pitch at Bristol.

India won the toss and without any hesitation, batted first at the insistence of captain Rahul Dravid. Experienced openers Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar started cautiously as England bowled well to have India to under 40 runs after the first 10 overs had been bowled.

The two openers then took advantage of the power plays coupled with the tiny boundaries and the flat pitch to take command of the game. Ganguly particularly punishing Tremlett with a six and two fours to bring up the hundred partnership during the 17 over.

England weren’t looking all that flash as Paul Collingwood looked lost for answers. As per usual, it took some magic from Andrew Flintoff to get England back in the game. Looking a class above, he had Tendulkar dropped on 57 and Ganguly gone the very next ball when trying to whack Flintoff over point, only to be caught by Paul Collingwood, bringing the 113 runs partnership to an end.

Yuvraj Singh made his way to the crease, promoted up the Indian batting order and started slowly whilst allowing himself to get his eye in before playing an effortless innings, particularly punishing Dimitri Mascarenhas.

At the other the unthinkable happened, again. For the second time on the tour, Tendulkar was given out on 99 to a dubious decision. He had played an attacking and effective innings and looked set for a well deserved hundred. But it was not to be when he was cruelly robbed of the milestone when Flintoff banged in a top notch bouncer, that replays suggest hit Tendulkar’s arm-guard and not his gloves on the way to wicket-keeper Prior.

India were in a healthy position though, 2-180 with many overs to come and the dismissal gave the opportunity for Indian captain Rahul Dravid to take the centre stage. The Indian captain played a gem of an innings. Gone were his traditional slow scoring ways, here he appeared a revitalized man who attacked the uninspired English bowling at will with brave and stunning stroke play.

Yuvraj was looking stylish at the other end as well and was looking to go on for a big score but much like Tendulkar, he fell just one before his 50 milestone, caught brilliantly by Collingwood off the bowling of Broad whilst slicing towards point. Most fielders wouldn’t have pulled it off, but Collingwood isn’t most fielders.

Dhoni played a fine cameo, 21 runs off 18 balls before being fooled by a short, slower ball by Anderson, but the spotlight was on his captain as he continued to pile on the runs. A century, would have been more than fitting for this exciting innings from Dravid, but the tail enders were unable to negotiate some fine bowling from an injured Flintoff to allow Dravid to reach the ton. He ended on 92 not out off a mere 63 deliveries and along with Tendulkar, had put India in a very strong position, with England needing 330 runs to win.

The English bowlers were unable to replicate their dazzling form from the first ODI, only Flintoff, who hurt his knee when sliding into an advertising board whilst trying to save a four, came away with any dignity. He ended with career best figures of 5-56 from his 10 overs, the first ODI five wicket haul of his career.

A short changeover saw England right out again to begin their response and they didn’t disappoint the crowed. Both Cook and Prior played in brisk and positive fashion to take the score to 75 for the loss of no wickets after 10 overs.

They punished Ajit Agarkar in particular, taking 41 off his four overs bowled at that stage and were looking to up the ante when tragedy struck, both openers out to consecutive deliveries from Munaf Patel. Prior hit the ball straight up in the air and into the waiting hands of Dravid at mid off for 33 and Cook into the waiting gloves of Dhoni for 36.

Things for England would have been made much worse if not for a dropped catch the very next over which set off a comedy of errors in the field from the Indians. Powar dropped Bell on one in an easy outfield chance. It was a move the Indians regretted soon enough as Bell carried over his impressive form from the previous match and the final innings of the Test series.

The fielding errors continued when Pietersen was dropped twice in an over off Ganguly’s bowling, once by Dhoni who failed to hold on to a ball that came right into his gloves whilst standing up to the wickets and the second time two balls later when Ganguly dropped an easy chance off his own bowling.

Unlike Bell, Pietersen did not make India pay too much for their ineptitude in the field as Piyush Chawla had him clean bowled with only his second delivery of the match. The danger man was back in the pavilion for a run a ball 25.

Chawla took another bite out of the English middle order when he removed Collingwood for 27 and spin partner Powar made up for his fielding error earlier by having Flintoff caught at deep midwicket for nine.

England were now in trouble with 185/5 and 145 runs needed from 19 remaining overs and when Patel had Ravi Bopara out plumb LBW for 17 shortly afterwards and Bell for 64, a result in India’s favour was looking more and more likely.

However staunch resistance from Mascarenhas gave the English crowd some hope as he began an incredible display of sixes, five in fact, to bring England within a faint possibility of victory. He was out in the second last over for 52 off 39 balls with England needing 30 off the last over to snatch victory.

However, two sixes and a four from Broad was not enough in the final over as England fell 10 runs short of what would have been a magical and memorable victory.

India 7-329
Sachin Tendulkar 99, Rahul Dravid 92
Andrew Flintoff 5-56

England 8-320
Ian Bell 64, Dimitri Mascarenhas 52
Piyush Chawla 3-60, Munaf Patel 3-70

India won by nine runs to level the seven match ODI series 1-1.

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