Lions vs India rained out

The game between England Lions and India failed to get beyond the 7th over of India’s reply as persistent drizzle persecuted the County Ground, Northampton from mid-afternoon. The Indians had made a solid start to a testing chase through Robin Uthappa and Sourav Ganguly after a series of impressive knocks had propelled the Lions to 296 for 8. The chance of valuable game-switching practice was lost, however, as the match was abandoned at quarter past four.

The form of their seam-bowlers remains a worry for the tourists. On a pitch good for batting but with plentiful cloud cover, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and especially Munaf Patel struggled badly, conceding 158 off their combined 24 overs. England Lions had a very mixed side: Vikram Solanki, continuing to remain on the fringes of the national side, opened with Darren Maddy, playing his first game for an England-representative side for over 7 years; Ian Bell, Owais Shah and Ravinder Bopara all have reason to consider themselves part of England’s current first-choice ODI XI; Luke Wright has in the space of a season turned from a mediocre all-rounder to a serious hard-hitting proposition high in the order; former county team-mate Paul Nixon was perhaps being rewarded for an impressive winter which was always likely to be a one-off; Chris Schofield and Tim Bresnan earned the opportunity to put behind them horrific first stints in international cricket (the former in 2000, the latter 2006); and Jonathan Lewis and James Kirtley remain two of the highest reputation “steady” bowlers on the county circuit despite distinctly moderate outputs (and, in Kirtley’s case, a terrible ODI career to date) – Lewis’ economy-rate this season is well over 6, Kirtley’s well over 5.

Mahendra Dhoni, captaining the Indians after Rahul Dravid elected to rest, had chosen to field first upon winning the toss, and after just 12 from the first 4 overs, with Maddy dismissed though a simple lofted catch to mid-on from Agarkar’s bowling, Wright’s arrival heralded chaos: 11 runs came from Zaheer’s next over, despite a blow to the helmet for Solanki off the opening delivery, and 95 from the 13 which begun with it. Wright reached his half-century from just 34 deliveries in the 16th, but fell shortly afterwards – Ramesh Powar’s introduction reduced the pace on the ball, and Wright played too early on an attempted flick to leg, and gave Dhoni a one-handed catch. Solanki brought up his half-century in the following Powar over, which went for 11 – his innings had contained little of Wright’s frenzy, but plenty of dropping balls into gaps and using his extreme speed between the wickets.

Powar’s following over conceded 10 too, but crucially Bell was suckered off the final delivery, when he planted a flighted delivery straight down Agarkar’s throat at deep-mid-wicket. Powar struck again in his next over, from around-the-wicket to the right-handed Shah, winning a straightforward lbw decision with one that straightened. When Solanki was totally beaten by Chawla’s superbly-disguised googly the following over and pinned even more stone-dead still, England had in minutes collapsed from 144 for 2 to 149 for 5.

Chawla had conceded 24 from his opening 4 overs, and Powar 25 from his first 3. Both proceeded to pull their figures back, however, and between Bell’s dismissal at the end of the 22nd and the penultimate ball of the 45th just 7 boundaries were struck. Bopara and Nixon, in a virtual reprise of their sensational stand against Sri Lanka in the World Cup, played sensible cricket, working the spinners into gaps with deft and sometimes innovative strokes. They kept up a fine pace with such batting, putting-on 73 in 14.4 overs. Once Chawla (last 6 overs conceding just 28) had bowled-out, Yuvraj Singh was thrown the ball, and once Powar (last 7 for 27) had completed his 10, Patel was reintroduced. The Gujarati seamer’s luck remained out, however, as Uthappa caught, then spilled, an attempted loft over mid-on from Nixon. This did not cost the team, however, as Nixon missed an attempted reverse-sweep from Yuvraj the next over, dragged his foot out of the crease, and saw Dhoni whip the bails off impressively. Nixon had established a platform, however, and when Bopara fell 3 overs later, Patel finally getting a wicket as a leading-edge found Uthappa at cover, the stage was set, at 236 for 7 with 6 remaining, for a final assault.

Schofield and Bresnan did not disappoint. Aided by two no-balls, one each from Agarkar and Zaheer, they smashed a scintillating 10-an-over for the final 6. Bresnan heavily favoured meaty clubs to leg in a 26-ball 32*, while Schofield demonstrated his usual improvisation for a 30-ball 35 before flicking the ball onto his leg-stump from Agarkar’s penultimate delivery. Once again death-bowling had proven to be a problem for the Indians, though here they also struggled through most of the rest of the innings, unlike in the game at Glasgow earlier in the week.

It would have been a measure of consolation that both openers looked in fine touch, as Kirtley struggled to hit a consistent length, being hooked for six by Uthappa and driven, twice, crisply by Ganguly through the off for four. Lewis was better, and in 3.5 overs conceded just 8 runs. However, the forecast had always warned of the possibilities and so it proved that, after an hour of waiting, the Umpires called the game off, to the disappointment of another packed house who, though Sachin Tendulkar once again sat out, could have potentially looked forwards to the in-form Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni, as well as the considerable prospect that is 20-year-old Rohit Sharma. The weather, however, had the last laugh, and it can merely be hoped that such problems are absent between the 21st of this month and the 8th of the next, when 7 ODIs are due to be contested.

England Lions 296 for 8 (50 overs)
Vikram Solanki 60, Luke Wright 56, Ravinder Bopara 37, Paul Nixon 39, Chris Schofield 35, Tim Bresnan 32*
Ramesh Powar 10-52-3

India 32 for 0 (6.5 overs)

No result

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