It was Super Sunday for India at Headingley. Their backs to the wall, they came out spitting and scratching, keeping up the momentum despite a couple of rain breaks to beat England by 38 runs and keep themselves in the NatWest series.
Chasing a revised target of 311 off 45 overs after India scored 324 for six off their allotted 50, England were 242 for 8 when the rain came down for the last time. At that point of time (after 39 overs) when it was decided that the match would be called off, the Duckworth-Lewis method dictated that England should have been 281. They were well short.
But even if the rain gods hadn’t intervened, England, barring an outstanding performance from skipper Paul Collingwod, looked done in. Perhaps as much by their own complacency after strolling through the first few games (despite the loss at Bristol, they came close) as some superb batting by the Indian batsmen and a world record equalling-performance by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Magic behind the wickets
India vice-captain Dhoni, who had mournfully admitted earlier on this tour that he was not at all comfortable with collecting the “wobbling ball” in England, seemed to have decided that Sunday would be now or never.
He did wobble a bit himself from time to time, he looked a little unnerved every now and then, the dark stubble on his chin lending him a more strained air of sorts, and really, he did seem more relieved than anything else when he managed to hold on five times and whip off the bails in a flash on one occasion. But all in all, it was a superb performance from the under-fire Indian keeper.
On a typically blustery northern day though, when the luck of the toss favoured the hosts, well before Dhoni made his presence felt behind the stumps, it was India’s star batsmen who gelled as a unit and set things up.
Sachin Tendulkar blazed in a somewhat unorthodox fashion (71 off 59) and with Sourav Ganguly (59 off 79) gave India an excellent start. Later, when the star pairing fell, the young southpaw combine of Gautam Gambhir (51, who came in at No. 3, and Yuvraj Singh (72) gave a glimpse of what the future could hold as they made maximum use of the middle overs to consolidate that start. Finally, cameos from Dravid and Dhoni ensured that things didn’t flag at the end.
Just a point here, while the top four got half-centuries, Tendulkar and Yuvraj played special knocks. But both were as fluent as they could ever be, exhibiting all the strokes in their armoury at will. Tendulkar cut loose in the sixth over after he and Ganguly made a slow start, with just seven runs on the board off the first five overs.
Fielding blues, again
It was the sort of a day when everything worked in favour of India, post the toss. Or almost everything. The fielding, that old bane, showed its ugly face again when two catches were dropped early. Tendulkar (Ian Bell’s first ball) and Ganguly (Prior in the third over of the innings) dropped a catch each off Zaheer and Agarkar, respectively, in the slip cordon.
Though Cook had gone early, Dravid was probably worried, after all, India were one bowler short and Agarkar had conceded 46 off his first five overs. The Indian skipper, probably looking at the overcast conditions, threw the ball to Ganguly. And it worked, as the man with the golden arm got rid of Prior (46 off 45) in his second over. That started the slide.
Ganguly, who shone in his 300th ODI performance with a brilliant all-round performance, was man of the match. As India head to London for the last two games though, fielding coach Robin Singh would probably be thanking the heavens yet wondering what lies ahead.
Sourav Ganguly c Cook b Panesar 59
Sachin Tendulkar c Prior b Lewis 71
Gautam Gambhir c sub (Andrew Gale) b Broad 51
Yuvraj Singh c Anderson b Collingwood 72
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Prior b Anderson 24
Rahul Dravid run out 24
Dinesh Karthik not out 2
Zaheer Khan not out 4
Extras (b 3, lb 2, w 12) 17
Total (for 6 wickets, 50 overs) 324
Did not bat: Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Piyush Chawla.
Fall of wickets: 1-116 (Tendulkar, 19.4), 2-150 (Ganguly, 26.5), 3-244 (Gambhir, 41.4), 4-266 (Yuvraj Singh, 44.3), 5-311 (Dhoni, 48.4), 6-318 (Dravid, 49.3)
James Anderson 10-1-60-1 (2w)
Jon Lewis 10-1-63-1 (1w)
Stuart Broad 10-0-84-1 (2w)
Paul Collingwood 10-1-48-1
Monty Panesar 8-0-50-1
Ravi Bopara 1.1-0-7-0
Kevin Pietersen 0.5-0-7-0 (1w)
Alistair Cook c Dhoni b Agarkar 4
Matt Prior st Dhoni b Ganguly 46
Ian Bell c Dhoni b Ganguly 44
Kevin Pietersen c Dhoni b Zaheer 0
Paul Collingwood not out 91
Owais Shah c Dhoni b Powar 15
Ravi Bopara c & b Powar 11
Stuart Broad c Karthik b Chawla 1
Jon Lewis c Dhoni c Agarkar 17
James Anderson not out 1
Extras (b 1, lb 2, w 3, nb 6) 12
Total (for 8 wickets off 39 overs) 242
Did not bat: Monty Panesar
Fall of wickets: 1-7 (Cook, 3.1), 2-97 (Prior, 13.5), 3-102 (Pietersen, 14.6), 4-104 (Bell, 15.5), 5-145 (Shah, 25.5), 6-193 (Bopara, 31.6), 7-196 (Broad, 32.6), 8-240 (Lewis, 38.4)
Zaheer Khan 8-0-44-1 (3nb, 1w)
Ajit Agarkar 7-0-58-2 (2nb)
Sourav Ganguly 7-0-26-2
Piyush Chawla 5-0-31-1
Sachin Tendulkar 5-0-35-0
Ramesh Powar 7-0-45-2
Man of the match: Sourav Ganguly (India)
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Nigel Llong (England)
TV umpire: Ian Gould (England)
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)