by Rupesh UK
After its emphatic series victory against Australia in the Border- Gavaskar trophy, the Indian cricket team faced a new challenge against the visiting English team, a lengthy seven match One Day International (ODI) series. Although the ODI team would feature a different bunch of players than the one featured in the test matches against Australia, it would be interesting to see how the team copes to the one-day format in less than a week’s time. The Indian squad was without Sachin Tendulkar for the initial set of matches and the England side comprised of players who are touring India for the first time.
The series will also see a new rule being implemented on power plays. As per the new rule, the existing third power play will now be decided by the batting team, which seems to be an interesting move that could probably bring balance in a one-sided match.
The first match was played at Rajkot. The Indian team batted well and the openers Gautam Gambhir (51) and Virender Sehwag (85) looked solid and they contributed a century stand for the first wicket. The top order batting looked stable, but, it was the batting display of Yuvraj Singh that stole the show. Yuvraj, who was under pressure for inconsistency in the one-day format and who was dropped from the test squad, spent some time in the middle in the company of Suresh Raina (43), once settled, Yuvraj detonated and he hammered the English bowlers to all corners of the field with 16 boundaries and six of them, lofted off the fence. Such was the assault that, at times, the crowd felt that his batting looked as if he was being featured in a promotional advertisement. In the process, Yuvraj notched his ninth ODI century and the second fastest by an Indian, coming in 64 balls. The fastest century by an Indian is held by Mohammed Azharuddin, who scored a century in 62 balls against New Zealand in 1988.
Yuvraj scored 138 not out in a mere 78 balls and took the Indian total to a massive 387. Yuvraj was also injured, while on play and had to opt for a runner in Gambhir.
To chase a score of such a magnitude was difficult, but, England failed to deliver from the beginning and lost half its side for 76. Ravi Bopara (54), Samit Patel (28) and Stuart Broad (26) batted well in the end and the England team folded at 229, giving India a victory by 158 runs and to lead the series by 1-0. For India, Zaheer Khan took three wickets.
The second match was played at Indore and people who had watched Yuvraj’s furore on television were expecting another similar performance. The English team was expecting to perform better so as to level the series standing.
The Indian top order failed to deliver and lost three early wickets to fast bowler Stuart Broad. The English team managed to put brakes on the free scoring Gambhir (70) and Yuvraj initially, but towards the end Yuvraj attacked again. Yuvraj scored a century again, bringing his tenth ODI hundred (118) and in the process becoming the fourth Indian player to have scored two consecutive ODI centuries. Yuvraj was finally dismissed by Broad who took his fourth wicket of the Indian innings. With Yuvraj gone, it looked difficult whether India could post a fighting total. But, the team had Yousuf Pathan, a dangerous batsman at depth, who came on his own to take the India score to 292. Pathan scored a power packed half century in 29 balls, which was studded with four massive hits off the fence.
England started badly again losing an early wicket, but, Mathew Prior (38) and Owais Shah (58) batted sensibly to resurrect the English innings. Yuvraj was back in the picture, this time with the ball, as he scalped them both and leaving the England run chase in tatters. Skipper Kevin Pietersen (33) and Andrew Flintoff (43) attemped a comeback and followed that with a fight back, as both the players plundered the Indian bowling by opting to select the third power play. Yuvraj was summoned again and he took both their wickets in the same over thus bringing a halt to the English run chase. Sehwag did the rest to scalp the tail and India won again to lead the series 2-0. For India, Sehwag took three wickets and Yuvraj grabbed four.
The third match was played at Kanpur, India rested R.P Singh for Ishant Sharma and England opted for a spinner Graeme Swann, in place of Steve Harmison.
The match was delayed because of foggy conditions and it was later decided that a 49 over per side match be played. As a result, the third power play for the batting side was reduced by an over, which meant the batting side would get four overs of big hitting.
England also did a major change in their batting order with Ravi Bopara (60) opening the innings with Ian Bell (46). The openers batted well and scored 79 for the first wicket. The good start was not well capitalized and England kept losing wickets. Contributions from Flintoff (26), Shah (40) and Patel (26) took their tally to 240. For India, Harbhajan Singh grabbed three wickets, who also took his 200 ODI wickets.
The Indian run chase was poor and for the fist time the English team looked dominating and charged for a win as India lost wickets at regular intervals, including the prized wicket of Yuvraj Singh. But this time the elements were against the English side as bad light prevented play after the 40th over. The umpires decided to open the cricketer’s mathematical book that held a mysterious formula, the Duckworth-Lewis method, which suggested that the batting side were to be at 183 at the end of the 40th over. India was at 198 and was declared winners. For India, Sehwag scored 68 and for England Flintoff took three wickets. India leads the series 3-0.
The bandwagon now moves to Bangalore for the fourth one dayer. The Indian board announced its squad for the following two matches which features Sachin Tendulkar and Irfan Pathan in place of R.P.Singh and opener Murali Vijay. With Gambhir and Shewag doing a good job for the openers slot, it would be interesting to see where Sachin would be asked to bat. For England, it is a tough task ahead and they have to try harder against the Indians who would be trying to win the next match so as to wrap the series.