This England team is certainly not up to the standard of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men. Despite India resting Munaf Patel and Gautam Gambhir, the home team made light work of the visitors in the fifth one-dayer at Barabati Stadium on Wednesday, defeating them by a resounding margin of six wickets with more than six overs to spare.
Virender Sehwag was the chief architect of the Indian win, scoring a typically belligerent 91 off 73 balls (15x4, 1x6). Later on, when India lost three quick wickets in the middle overs, Dhoni and Suresh Raina combined brilliantly to ensure that England remained winless on this tour thus far.
By the end of the second match of the Hero Honda Cup, England had realised they badly needed someone in the top order to play a long innings, a la Yuvraj Singh. Wish fulfillment happened rather late but it still made some difference. For the first time in the series, England took their total past the 250 mark as skipper Kevin Pietersen batted till the end for a well-paced unbeaten 111, his seventh ODI century.
The series already decided 4-0 in India's favour, England made a solid 270 for four. They could have pushed it closer to 300 but for some disciplined bowling by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma in the Powerplay chosen by the batting side from 41 to 45 overs. In those five overs with fielding restrictions, Pietersen and Owais Shah managed just 32 runs.
Showing promise of big scores early in the series, Pietersen somehow could not stay on long enough. He was run out in the first and Yuvraj got one to slip through the gate in the second at Indore. "I am sick of getting out around 50s," Pietersen had said after a disastrous loss in Rajkot where he scored 63 with some handsome hits out of the ground. In the third and fourth ODIs he was dismissed cheaply (13 & 5).
Here, of course, the beginning was slightly different as was the shot selection. After a shaky start which saw top edges and an inside edge luckily flying to the vacant third-man boundary, Pietersen settled down, looking to play as late as possible on a track that showed signs of getting slow and low. He got to 50 in 59 balls and on the next ball, survived a sharp caught-and-bowled chance off Yuvraj. A four and a six in the next over from Harbhajan Singh showed that Pietersen was determined to make it count. He reached his hundred off 119 balls with nine fours and one six.
After openers Alistair Cook, who came in for Ian Bell, and Ravi Bopara were dismissed - both trying to force Zaheer Khan through the off-side - Pietersen stitched a 91-run partnership with Paul Collingwood to steady the innings. Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff fell in consecutive overs and England looked as if they were about to mess up yet again. But a 112-run unbeaten stand between Pietersen and Shah off 116 balls gave the England bowlers a decent cushion to operate.
Shah, who had made a 48-ball 72 in the rain-affected match in Bangalore coming in at No. 3, batted at No 6 but seemed to carry his form here with a 57-ball 66 including nine boundaries.
The threat of heavy dew in the second session must have influenced Mahendra Singh Dhoni to field first and India opened with Irfan Pathan, who replaced Munaf Patel in the XI. The other change in the line-up was Rohit Sharma who came in for Gautam Gambhir.
Selectors to meet today
M.S. DHONI had hinted a couple of changes in the side for the Cuttack ODI, and he did that by bringing in Rohit Sharma and Irfan Pathan in place of Gautam Gambhir and Munaf Patel, respectively.
However, Virat Kohli and Pragyan Ojha are yet to get a game in the series, and that would make things somewhat tricky for the selectors meeting here on Thursday to pick the side for the last two ODIs.
Now if the selectors had come here to have a look at them, they didn't get a chance. And now if they drop these two to get in someone else, they would be doing so without giving them a single chance, just like Murali Vijay who went out without getting a single game.
The other issue that could figure in the meeting is that of resting senior players like Zaheer, Sehwag and Harbhajan. Dhoni too could be considered for he will play in the Champions League, followed immediately by the Test series against England and Pakistan. Ishant, too, might be rested.
If that happens, RP Singh could make a comeback. In spin department, the likes of Mohnish Parmar, R Ashwin, and Amit Mishra too could hope for a call. Man-of-the-Series Robin Uthappa, Cheteshwar Pujara and S Badrinath are some of the other names that could be discussed.