The Indian team made full use of the conditions that were similar to those at any smaller centre back home and squared the seven-match NatWest series 1-1 with a nine-run victory over England.
But as the victory margin suggests, it was not as convincing as it should have been, or could have been, after the England tail was exposed with the hosts still 90 runs short of the mammoth target of 330.
When Ian Bell (64), England’s highest scorer in the second successive match, perished, failing to clear the long-on boundary off Piyush Chawla, the scoreboard read 240 for seven from 41.3 overs. With Stuart Broad joining the last of England’s recognised batsmen, Dimitri Mascarenhas, the Indians should have wrapped up the innings and registered a convincing win.
<b1>But Mascarenhas, who got his first ODI wicket in Southampton, made most of the opportunity and proved his worth with the bat, scoring his maiden ODI fifty. Let’s not take any credit away from Mascarenhas, who timed the ball sweetly and hit five sixes and a boundary in his 39-ball 52, and Broad, who remained unbeaten on 29 off 24. Both did exceptionally well not just to hang in there but score at a brisk pace, adding 59 off 43 balls for the eighth wicket.
While Mascarenhas perished in the penultimate over, Broad didn’t give up the never-say-die attitude. When Munaf Patel started the last over of the match, England needed 30 runs to win. But the lanky paceman hit Munaf Patel for two sixes and as many boundaries to help England finish the game with their heads held high.
“To be honest, I was thoroughly pleased with the way the boys went about the chase,” England skipper Paul Collingwood, who was fined 50 per cent of his match fee due to his team’s slow over rate, said. “Many times during the innings, we slackened up and in the end found the boundaries...”
Dravid, on the other end, didn’t see much in it. “It was that kind of ground where somebody has a good day and starts clearing the boundaries, you cannot do much about that,” Dravid said, referring to Mascarenhas’ five sixes. “I felt we were always in control of the game once we got Ian Bell out.”
Had the Indians not let the Englishmen close in in the dying moments of the day, India would have entered the third match with the momentum on their side after levelling the series.
They still will, but they allowed Collingwood to go into the Birmingham game thinking “positively” after the late run-riot.