When England bowlers scythed through India's top order, it appeared MS Dhoni had got his combination wrong. His main reason behind playing Ravindra Jadeja would have been to fill in the fifth bowler's spot. At 58 for five, what was needed was depth in batting.
At that time, one felt Manoj Tiwary would have been a better choice. Conditions were tough for batting, The Oval wicket had juice in it, and the ball was doing a bit under an overcast sky. Being a batsman, Tiwary would have provided a cover to the top-order. By playing Jadeja, Dhoni had weakened the batting and strengthened the bowling.
In the 17th over, Jadeja's walk to the centre to join his captain was greeted with a hushed silence by the Indian supporters. When he returned to the pavilion in the final over of the innings, The Oval was reverberating with a thunderous applause.
The Saurashtra all-rounder had silenced all Doubting Thomases with a fighting innings of 78 to save India the blushes in the third one-dayer on Friday.
Equally important in India's fightback was Dhoni and R Ashwin's contribution. In a fine example of leading from the front, the India captain scored 69 off 103 balls while Ashwin chipped in with 36 off 19 balls.
Taking nothing away from home team's bowling effort, the wicket offered too much assistance to the bowlers for a one-day game. Helped by the grass cover on the playing surface, the ball seamed and swung around menacingly. It was like Test cricket in coloured clothing.
James Anderson once again showed what a dangerous customer he can be in helpful conditions. The England spearhead put the young Indian batsmen through a serious examination in which they all expectedly failed.
In the first spell of seven overs, Anderson picked up three wickets for 24 runs to run through the top-order.
Jimmy on a roll
Anderson could do nothing wrong in the first hour as the only Indian who was looking comfortable, Rahul Dravid, was run out by him with a direct hit from mid-on. It looked all over for India when Suresh Raina perished at the score of 58, the fifth wicket to fall.
There were limited expectations from the next-man in, Jadeja. Drafted directly into the side within 48 hours after touching down in London, he had no time to acclimatise. To the delight of the large contingent of Indian supporters in the stands, Jadeja exceeded all expectations. He surprised the England bowlers with his show of character, strokeplay and match fitness.
Good shot selection
Most impressive was the left-hand batsman's shot selection. He was content to use the pace of the ball for picking up runs, but pounced upon the opportunity whenever there was a boundary ball.
On the seventh ball he faced, Jadeja unleashed a powerful cover drive off Broad. For hitting his next boundary, he waited almost seven overs. There was no sign of panic even when he lost his skipper at the start of the batting powerplay. He ensured India didn't go astray and amassed 51 runs with Ashwin.
Ashwin chips in
Ashwin showed the importance of batting depth by rattling the England bowlers with a clever use of long handle. The way Jadeja turned up for the contest on short notice was a fine example of professionalism. He was picked as Rohit Sharma's replacement last Sunday and he was playing in England on Friday, but there were no signs of rustiness. He ran hard between the wickets and had enough stamina to put pressure on the England fielders even at the fag end of the innings. It was a heartening sight after the RP Singh fiasco in the Test match at this very ground last month when the bowler turned up overweight and rusty.