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Undone in London

The game might be remembered for a vital, iffy decision. But India were simply outplayed, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Sep 09, 2007 00:54 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Once Sachin Tendulkar departed for 30, done in by fate and an off day for umpire Aleem Dar, most of the large contingent of Indians here shifted base to the lawns outside the stands, shifting focus to their friends and, obviously, the beer.

They followed the match on the giant screen and when they saw the Oval's last action hero, Robin Uthappa's, dismissal, there was almost a collective sigh and a general prayer sent up for MS Dhoni to remain a while.

Dhoni did, and the fans watched a bit of an Indian fightback and seemed happy enough for that glimpse. Later again, for a few breathless moments, when RP Singh took out both openers in quick time and England had nothing much but a bunch of extras on board, India and Indians hoped.

But hope has to be backed up by something in real terms and unfortunately, on a sunny, lovely day for cricket at Lord's, the 187 India had managed just wasn't enough of a challenge for a strong English batting line-up.

Led by an uncharacteristically doughty 71 from man of the match Kevin Pietersen and a breezy 64 by skipper Paul Collingwood in an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand of 114, England waltzed past the target with seven wickets and 82 balls to spare. It was a damp squib of an ending after a sizzling series, with the Oval game three days ago really being the climax.

History rarely repeats itself and that Oval win, which reminded everyone so strongly of the NatWest final five years ago, seemed to have taken too much out of India. At Lord's on the day, despite the umpiring boo-boos by Dar, India were by far the more subdued team; they were also less intense and thoroughly outclassed.

Pietersen, who regained his lost form at the Oval before being run out for 53, and Collingwood, who was in good nick throughout the series, never looked in trouble.

But it wasn't the Indian bowlers who were responsible for the defeat. As Rahul Dravid later admitted, "with seven batsmen on board", India would have backed themselves to get at least 250 and make this game interesting.

In hindsight, it may appear that the decision to bat first against an England attack strengthened by the return of Flintoff was wrong. But you can't blame Dravid, after all, his batsmen had notched up over 300 in each of the last two games.

And more than the toss, it was possibly, the on-field boss, umpire Dar, who restricted India with two controversial decisions. The first, that of Dravid, was possibly iffy.

The second, that of Tendulkar — given caught behind when it appeared that the bat hit the front pad and not the ball — was definitely so. Both wickets swung the balance comprehensively in favour of the hosts. Once India were reduced to 59 for four, they never recovered.

The fact that this has been the perfect one-day series, with nail-biting contests, a surfeit of runs, some incisive bowling displays and more than a few vintage performances, would be of little consolation for Dravid's men. In the final analysis, they lost.