Hint of swing, India return to old ways
When England skipper Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bowl, the hosts, despite having sewed up the series 3-1 going into the final ODI on Sunday, knew their top-order batsmen had their task cut out at this hill station. N Ananthanarayanan reports. Scorecardindia Updated: Jan 28, 2013 03:06 IST
When Gautam Gambhir smashed Tim Bresnan's over-pitched ball straight down the track for four, it must have sent confidence rushing through him. The left-handed opener has been so tentative that watching him score runs in front of the wicket had become a rare sight.
When England skipper Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bowl, the hosts, despite having sewed up the series 3-1 going into the final ODI on Sunday, knew their top-order batsmen had their task cut out at this hill station, making its international debut.
India's top order had caved in against the swing and pace of Pakistan in losing the preceding home series 1-2. In the fourth ODI in Mohali, India took full advantage of bowling first in seaming conditions.
But Gambhir, who had played himself in, had himself to blame after failing to keep down an instinctive cut against off-spinner James Tredwell to be caught at point. That only added to the gloom as a packed house had assembled since early in the morning to cheer the home side at this picturesque venue.
Paceman Bresnan sucked both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, who fell for a first ball duck, into the drive off successive deliveries and India were reduced to 49 for four in the 13th over.
Suresh Raina produced his fourth consecutive half century of the series - he did not bat in the third ODI in Ranchi - to rescue the innings to 226.
It was not enough as opener Ian Bell struck an unbeaten 113 to steer England to 227 for three, the seven-wicket victory giving them a huge lift as the team flies straight to New Zealand.
Skipper MS Dhoni said: "It was a bad toss to lose. There was lot of seam movement initially. As the game progressed, it was good to bat on." He defended Gambhir's role as well.
"In terms of runs, he is going through a lean patch. But he is one of the experienced openers. But he was not tentative…there is a lot of improvement."
But it was a wonderful opportunity for the batsmen to test themselves against seam bowling.
Having retained the same XI and not given the batsman in form and with excellent technique, Cheteshwar Pujara, his one-day debut, it was all about challenging themselves.
India's next ODI engagement will be in England, in the Champions Trophy, in summer.
Steve Finn had a marker to avoid knocking down the bails on his bowling stride, after that had proved decisive in Mohali. He exposed Yuvraj Singh's inadequate technique before Gambhir slipped.
Raina did not get promoted in the order, but he was in before the seventh over was out. But luck was on his side.
Tredwell, having caught Rohit and Virat at second slip, could not hold on to a low offer off Chirs Woakes on five.
Raina went past 4,000 ODI runs and was again dropped on 61, this time off Tredwell by Cook at square leg.
England dropped three catches in all, but Raina's 78-run sixth-wicket stand with Ravindra Jadeja (39) and Ravichandran Ashwin (19) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (31), adding 50 runs was still inadequate.
Ishant Sharma was the standout bowler and accounted for Cook as well but once the early breakthroughs did not come, the bowling went downhill.
Bell, often criticised for not performing to potential, wore down the bowling and helped himself to fours as the seamers and spinners, particularly Ashwin, offered plenty of loose deliveries.