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Harbhajan's bhangra rocks Kotla

The off spinner's five-wicket haul scripted England batting collapse as India won by 39 runs. Full Scorecard

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 09:17 IST

After the humiliating Mumbai Test defeat, there was a vociferous clamour to get the Indian team rid of its two  'burdens' - Sehwag and Harbhajan.

After the Feroze Shah Kotla encounter, those demands will gain voice in the first case, but will die down in the second... at least for the time being.

Turbanator produced one of his finest ever bowling performance in recent past to steal the first of the seven ODI series from England's grasp on Tuesday. His exceptional utilization of the low bounce and 'square' turn offered by the pitch had the batsman twitching and prodding at his deliveries.

With just 204 runs needed to win after a yet another forgettable show by the Indian batsman, the tourists stumbled and stuttered and finally fell short of the target by 39 runs.

Harbhajan back with his black patka, posted not only his best ever figures of 5/31 in the limited version of the game, but also top scored for India with an enterprising 37 in the latter stages of a disappointing batting performance, which proved fatal for the tourists.

Having won the toss and put India to bat, Flintoff must have considered himself blessed with recurring windfalls, when Indian batsman played rash strokes one after the other to signal their demise. At the end of the first half, the skipper walked back pleased as a punch, with the hosts just about managing to surmount 200.

However, Fate has a knack of dishing out personal favours to the underdog, which catches the opponent off-gaurd.

At 117/3, England were cruising towards victory with the deadly combination of Kevin Peitersen and Andrew Flintoff at the helm and no speed-breaker in sight - India's fate looked as good sealed.

However, the fall of 3 crucial wickets for just 3 more runs on board got the hosts that vital 'foot in the door'. From then on, Bhajji showed his true colours with the second five-wicket haul of his career, as India successfully defended their meagre total.

At the match presentation, Bhajji rightfully looked relieved and satisfied. "It feels great to be back in the wickets...it's been a while and it really is special."

With a special win in their kitty, India will further look to turn the screws on England. The second of the seven match series will be played in Faridabad on Friday.

England innings:

India's face-saving endeavour with the white ball was off to a spunky start with Pathan removing the England no 1 and 3 in the very first over.

Dangerous Andrew Strauss and equally belligerent Owais Shah walked back to the pavilion, one after the other.

Burdened with an awful beginning early the innings, England run-mill churned on with Peitersen and Matt Prior at the helm. The duo not only stalled any further wicket fall, but also kept the tempo going against incisive Pathan and Sreesanth.

At the end of first powerplay, England was cruising at a fair clip with no intention to hold back. Dravid was increasingly running out of options. Faced with no choice, he tossed the ball to woefully out-of-form Harbhajan Singh, who answered his skipper's call.
 
Prior (22), trying to slog-sweep, hit it high to deep backward square leg where Gambhir holding his nerve against the glaring sun took a superb catch to dismiss the batsman.

India's face-saving endeavour with the white ball was off to a spunky start with Pathan removing the England no 1 and 3 in the very first over.

Dangerous Andrew Strauss and equally belligerent Owais Shah walked back to the pavilion, one after the other.

Burdened with an awful beginning early the innings, England run-mill churned on with Peitersen and Matt Prior at the helm. The duo not only stalled any further wicket fall, but also kept the tempo going against incisive Pathan and Sreesanth.

At the end of first powerplay, England was cruising at a fair clip with no intention to hold back. Dravid was increasingly running out of options.

Faced with no choice, he tossed the ball to woefully out-of-form Harbhajan Singh, who answered his skipper's call immediately.

Prior (22), trying to slog-sweep Bhajji, hit it high to deep backward square leg where Gambhir holding his nerve against the glaring sun took a superb catch to dismiss the batsman.

But, thereafter the deadly combination of KP and Freddie took over, weilding their broad blades with ferocious power. The duo, utilizing their ability to hit bowlers out of the park, smashed fours and sixes consistently to dent Indian confidence. Their stint at the crease, looked to seal the hosts' fate in double quick time.

But suddenly as if fate had played a personal role in it, the tables turned with 3 wickets falling in a span of just 3 runs, putting India back in the game.

Peitersen's blitzkreig ended with his individual score at 46 runs, but not before raining thunder at Kotla. Inspite of a wicket fall, England were in a commanding position. It was only the 5th dismissal, that of Flintoff (41), which gave India a fresh lease of life.

Geriant Jones's wicket was the icing on the cake, which gave India a possible chance of sneaking past England to win the match.

Riding on Harbhajan's 5wkt-haul, Ian Blackwell and Paul Collingwood fell to Turbanator's guile one after the another. The tail collapsed meekly thereafter.

Indian innings:

In a yet another meek (dis)performance by the Indian batsman, the hosts were bowled in the 47th over, setting England a relatively easy target of 204 runs in  the first of seven ODI series at the Feroze Shah Kotla.

Indian batting woes continued from Mumbai, with the top and the middle-order falling like a pack of cards against a determined bowling attack on Tuesday. Harbhajan top-scored for India with an enterprising 37. Newcomer Kabir Ali starred for the tourists scalping four wickets at crucial junctures, that thwarted any Indian endeavour of a fight back.

At the start, Virender Sehwag walked out to the middle in belligerent mood. The first ball he faced was short and wide and was smashed to point fence for a boundary.

However, England had him figured out in Test series and same was the case here. Faced with another snorter of a bouncer, Sehwag tried to pull, but in vain. The ball took the top edge and went straight to Plunkett at mid-wicket.

Losing explosive Viru had blunted India's sting first-up, but Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid absorbed much of the shock by keeping the tempo going.

After being discarded from the Test side, Gambhir was keen to prove his mettle in the shorter version of the game and boy, did he do it in style!

Kabir Ali suffered heavily as the Delhi opener got into the position early and latched onto anything short or wide. One of his shot went the distance, sailed over the square leg boundary into the home crowd.

Using an innovative (almost arrogant) technique of chipping the ball in the air, Gambhir posted runs at a fast clip.

But his blitzkrieg was cut short by newcomer. Trying to run it down to third man, Gambhir (25) was unlucky to get a wafer-thin edge through to a diving Jones.

Next up, southpaw Yuvraj Singh (1) also departed to Ali, playing the ball onto his stumps. Mohammed Kaif, who had starred in the warm-up tie with a superb century, followed him back without troubling the scorers much.

After a power-packed start, India had slumped down giving the advantage to the tourists.

Dravid, cool and calm at his end, played intelligently. But Liam Plunkett got a big prize for his team, when he brought the Wall down. Exploting low bounce from the wicket, Plunkett slipped one through that crashed into the base of middle and off. Dravid departed for a well-made 35, but clearly that wasn't enough.

With the skipper gone, it was upto the young duo of Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina to rescue from a position of total disarray. The two negotiated England's bowling attack with some success and even put on a 58-run stand, but with the field set with a well-thought out plan, Pathan and Raina crumbled under pressure.

With seven wickets down with just 150 on board, India's position was looking more and more morbid. Dhoni and Harabhajan salvaged some pride for the hosts though.

The wicketkeeper-batsman criticised for his irrational strokeplay in Mumbai, was noticeably solid and hit his first four after 55 deliveries. His vital stint - supported by Bhajji - took India over the 200-run mark. But after his dismissal, the tail folded without much contribution to the total.

India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, R Dravid (captain), Yuvraj Singh, M Kaif, SK Raina, MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper), IK Pathan, S Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh, MM Patel, AB Agarkar, RR Powar, Y Venugopal Rao.

England: MJ Prior, AJ Strauss, OA Shah, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, A Flintoff (captain), GO Jones, ID Blackwell, LE Plunkett, JM Anderson, Kabir Ali, IR Bell, MJ Hoggard, SI Mahmood, VS Solanki, GJ Batty.