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No two days are same in game of Cricket

India is fighting back the same way as in the Test series and things seem to be clicking at the right moment, writes Atul Sondhi.

cricket Updated: Aug 25, 2007 16:22 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi
Hindustan Times

How fortunes change in a matter of three days! The winners become vanquished and prey suddenly pouch on their masters with unparalleled ferocity. From Southampton to Bristol - the Journey can be as much a thriller as it was from Lord's to Trent Bridge in Tests.

Both in Tests and in ODIs, there was one striking similarity. India's underrated bowlers and highly rated batsmen came together to finish off the opposition. ''(Ex) Subjects strike back'' has been a regular feature of this tour. This time they did with a ferocity that numbed the erstwhile Empire.

At Bristol, quite a few reputations were at stake. After all, the title of a TV programme the day after India went down at Southampton was "Sharmnaak (Shameful)''. The glorious Test Series win was conveniently forgotten and one bad day soured the sentiments so much that nearly half of the team subsequently got flu!

What better place than Bristol to change the equations, where history has always favoured Tendulkar and India. The mater blaster had two centuries from two outings, including that memorable 140 against Kenya in the World Cup, when he had flown back to England soon after his father's cremation.

Sourav Ganguly had to prove once again that momentary lapses in concentration (which means a runout) do not camouflage a genius. Then the Wall in Dravid too had to explode. And it all happened. Sachin was sensational, Sourav outstanding, Yuvraj a perfect guide, and Dravid played a knock as if there was no tomorrow.

Now three out of four 300 plus scores on this ground belong to India, where they are the only team to have won three matches batting first. Except Pakistan (once), all other teams batting first have lost at Bristol. That is an exceptional record on such a small ground where chasing is always easier.

If the batsmen were outstanding, bowlers did not let them down. Do not be fooled by the heart-stopping margin of 9 runs in the end. The match was effectively sealed by Chawla and Patel by the time Bell's wicket fell. With nearly eleven runs per over needed off the last eight overs with three wickets in hand, the batting heroics can only get some talking points, not victory.

After such stupendous show, Piyush Chawla and Munaf Patel can breath easy.

Eventually, Patel turned out to be India's most expensive bowler thanks to that last 20-run over, but his twin strikes which took care of both England openers at a time when they were going very strong at nearly 7.5 runs per over, gave 'nervous' India the confidence that the job could be done.

Piyush Chawla, as has been the case with him for last few matches, was expensive, but did deliver some killing blows. He was the one who destroyed the main threats in Pietersen, Bell and Collingwood. But more important than the dismissals was the way he outthought his victims.

There was a phase after Chawla's three-wicket strikes in his career's first three matches, when the teenager's performance went downhill, fetching him just two wickets in next four. But such a convincing performance once again will do a great deal of good to his confidence. On grounds with bigger boundaries and more turn, the 18-year-old could become even more lethal.

India achieved all their objectives, barring some glaring fielding lapses. Playing five bowlers clicked, all main batsmen got their form back with Dravid leading the pack with a Dhonisque strike-rate of 146 for his 92 runs.

The only sore point that remains is the bowling of Ajit Agarkar. He is still to get his first wicket for 132 runs he has given away in 19 overs so far. Though things could have been different had Dhoni been more enterprising when Prior had nicked a beauty early in his innings. Still, if Zaheer gets fit, Agarkar should be lucky to be playing the next ODI.

In the end, more than the narrow win, what matters most is the series result and the positives India can take away from the match. At one-one, India is right back in with lots of positives to look back at with satisfaction. They are certainly in a position to have a go at double glory.

First Published: Aug 25, 2007 13:00 IST