India see off Scottish challenge

India scored a relatively straightforward win over Scotland in a game that was both warm-up and ODI, and took much from the game as fringe and returning players came to the fore in the field and with the bat. The Scots, in front of a full-house at Clydesdale Cricket Ground, were not outclassed and held their own for much of the game, but the Indians possessed enough firepower and professionalism to come home by 7 wickets with 6 overs to spare.

The tourists had made a steady start after winning the toss, despite 3 wides in Ajit Agarkar’s opening over. Rudra Pratap Singh impressed again, getting plenty of swing and keeping a tight line to both right-handed opening batsmen. Agarkar struck first, however, as Navdeep Poonia missed a straight ball which thudded into his pads and gave Umpire Ian Gould an easy first decision of the game. 3 overs later, Singh finally grabbed the wicket he had been threatening, ending a tortured 28-ball 6 from Fraser Watts, with one that pitched and seamed away dramatically, catching the outside-edge. Mahendra Dhoni made no mistake, and the Scots were 22 for 2.

Ryan Watson and Majid Haq looked more convincing than the openers had, but Agarkar and Rudra Pratap both completed sound if not error-free opening spells: after 11 Agarkar had 6-20-1 and RP 5-15-1. Dravid, as usual, elected to take his second Powerplay immediately, and introduced Munaf Patel for his first bowl for India since an unimpressive series in Bangladesh in May in the 12th over. He too started with a wide, a signal of things to come, but thereafter his opening over was impressive. After Agarkar conceded two boundaries in the 13th, Watson followed another in Patel’s next over with an uppish drive to mid-off where RP dived forwards and claimed a catch. After a long deliberation, the Umpires gave a not-out decision. Watson did not benefit however, and 2 balls later flicked a leg-stump ball straight to Piyush Chawla at square-leg, who took a fine low catch. The first ball of the next over, RP came back on, banged his first ball in short and saw a skied pull from Haq go straight to Chawla in the exact same position, and the fielder took a rather easier chance this time. This brought two of Scotland’s most experienced players together in Gavin Hamilton and Neil McCallum.

Patel and RP kept things tight for the rest of the two Powerplays, and Dravid introduced Chawla immediately the restrictions were over. At the end of that over, however, rain drove the players from the field, and after initially looking like nothing more than a brief shower, turned heavy enough to halt proceedings until 1 o’clock, and lopping an over off each team’s allocation. 2 balls after the resumption Yuvraj Singh just failed to cling on with a one-handed dive at a loose flick to leg from McCallum off Patel’s bowling. Patel had struggled with wides and no-balls but extracted seam and bounce when he hit his lines, and managed to get through his first 6 overs for 21. When Ramesh Powar was brought on in the 24th over, McCallum endured 5 dot-balls but planted the 6th well out of the ground on the leg-side.

This stroke ushered in a period of Scottish superiority, as the spinners struggled with the wet ball and Hamilton and McCallum managed to knock the ball around and strike the odd boundary. When, in the 33rd over, McCallum twice swept Chawla to the fine-leg boundary, it seemed an upping of the tempo may be on the cards. However, McCallum attempted one stroke too many, giving himself room to try to hit Chawla through the off, and succeeding only in bottom-edging a catch to Dhoni, who clung-on well. 2 overs later, Chawla trapped veteran wicketkeeper Colin Smith in front as he played across a leg-break. Nonetheless, Hamilton and Craig Wright continued to work the ball around well, until rain returned, and despite brave attempts to play on it eventually became too heavy. Shortly before the second interruption, Hamilton had been let-off at deep cover from RP’s bowling, as he replaced Powar after a doing-a-job spell of 9-41-0. Chawla had impressed with his ability to maintain control of the wet ball, and figures of 10-42-2 perhaps left him under-rewarded.

Rain eventually relented, allowing the Scots a further 5 overs. They made constructive use of them, slamming 40 for the loss of first Hamilton, then Wright and Blain in the final over. Agarkar conceded 25 from his final 2, Wright finished with an impressive 34-ball 37, and DuckworthLewis meant the Scots’ 203 for 9 had set a target of 209 in 46.

Paul Hoffman, in his final game for Scotland, displayed his usual accuracy, and John Blain impressively and unexpectedly followed-suit initially, constraining Robin Uthappa – in his first game for India since the ill-fated World Cup – and Gautam Gambhir to just over 2 runs an over in the first 7. The batsmen displayed calm heads, however, and were rewarded as they became accustomed to the slow pitch and boundaries began to flow. Dewald Nel had a day to forget, and between the 8th and the start of the 21st 89 runs came, as the batsmen took control of the chase. Wright finally broke through, castling Uthappa with a fine delivery which nipped back on pitching, skidded through and beat the batsman’s defences. Dinesh Karthik started swiftly but was becalmed by Wright’s tight line, and failed to clear mid-wicket with an airy flick off Haq’s bowling. This brought Yuvraj Singh to the crease, however, and with a required rate of less than 4.5-an-over the task was not difficult compared to some which he has conquered in his 175 previous ODIs.

So it proved that his left-handed strokeplay hurried India towards victory, combining with Gambhir – who had sailed serenely through the innings without ever appearing to be in a great hurry – to take 16 from Wright’s final over and 61 in total from the 8 overs they were together. Blain managed a consolation wicket with 11 required, bowling Yuvraj around his pads as the batsman walked across his stumps. This allowed Rahul Dravid to complete the chase – having arrived at the crease to a rousing reception from a crowd who remembered his 600 runs at 66.66 from the 2003 National League season – and complete Nel’s bad day, the South African-born right-armer finishing with 6-48-0. Gambhir once again patiently pressed his claim for a place, finishing on 85*. India now move on to Northampton to play England Lions before the seven-ODI series begins on August 21st with a daynight game at The Rose Bowl.

Scotland 203 for 9 (46 overs)
Gavin Hamilton 44, Neil McCallum 41, Craig Wright 37
Rutra Pratap Singh 9-26-2, Munaf Patel 9-36-2, Piyush Chawla 10-42-2

India 212 for 3 (39.5 overs)
Gautam Gambhir 85*, Robin Uthappa 55, Yuvraj Singh 38

India won by 7 wickets

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