The Duckworth Lewis system might have had the last word on the match, but India and England can attribute the result largely to the performance of their skippers. While the England skipper Kevin Peitersen showed undue haste and indiscretion, his counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni was an epitome of maturity, discretion and fortitude.
All Peitersen needed to do was play himself in after the openers had given England a fine start. He instead stepped out to Harbhajan Singh, intending to lift him over long-on, only to see the ball flying straight to the long-off fielder. With 100 on the board in 20 overs, there was obviously no need or pressure on him to try and force the pace. Besides, he had barely cleared the long-on fielder off Yuvraj Singh in the previous over, which should have made him more cautious.
Dhoni walked in when the scenario for India was looking a bit grim at 125 for 4. He assessed the situation and immediately curbed his aggressive instincts to let the storm called Andrew Flintoff, bowling a hostile spell at that moment, pass.
He stood his ground firmly, even as the dashers like Sehwag (68) and Yuvraj (38) perished, leaving him to do the dirty work of finishing off the game.
He was shepherding India closer to victory when light faded below the permissible limits and the match was called off, ensuring India won the game by 16 runs, courtesy the Duckworth-Lewis system. Nonetheless, the way Dhoni read the situation and played when the light-factor looked certain to play a role is indeed remarkable.
“He reads the situation well, and is capable of wining such close games as a batsman. I would actually want no one but him in such situations on the crease,” said Gary Kirsten, applauding Dhoni.
For England, the outing proved better than the last two. For a change, they opted to bat first, and shuffled their batting line-up from top to bottom. But what they couldn't alter is their vulnerability against spin. Openers Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell did well to survive the probing new ball spells by Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel. They didn't look at ease for the first eight overs, but gradually gained in confidence as the ball lost its shine. And by the time Munaf could induce an edge from bell's bat (46), England were comfortably placed at 79-1 in the 15th over.
Having seen the pacers off with minimum damage, England were well-placed to handle the spinners — with 100 on board in 20 overs. But then came that indiscreet stroke from Peitersen, and thereafter spinners, especially Harbhajan Singh, took a vice-like grip on the match, not allowing England to breathe easy. And once they had raced through the middle overs, the pacers returned and finished off the job remarkably, restricting England to 240.
India set off in the their usual aggressive fashion. And just the moment one began visualizing another easy stroll for the home side, Flintoff effected a twist in the tale. The burly bowler bowled with lot of heart and fire and dealt three telling blows to pull England back into the game.
He looked exceptional before he ran into Dhoni and Duckworth Lewis. And that was the end of his heroic effort.