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  • India v England, 1st ODI, Rajkot

England hang on for narrow victory

The Report by David Hopps
January 11, 2013
File photo: James Tredwell claimed four wickets to help steer England to victory © PA Photos
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England 325 for 4 (Bell 85, Cook 75) beat India 316 for 9 (Yuvraj 51, Gambir 52, Tredwell 4-44) by nine runs
Scorecard

India had never chased more than 325 to win an ODI on home soil and, if the old India might have regarded England as ripe for the taking, this present side lacks the same formidable presence. They came close, but when Ishant Sharma was left to hit Jade Dernbach's last two balls for six to win the match, India probably knew in their hearts that the game was up.

England had lost 16 of their last 18 ODIs in India and two defeats in their warm-up matches did not auger well, but they served up a victory for their new limited-overs coach, Ashley Giles, at the first time of asking and will now face the rest of the five-match series with greater belief.

The first international at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium lavished favours upon the batsmen. The pitch was amenable and the outfield glassy but James Tredwell, with international-best figures of 4 for 44, stood firm. An understudy to Graeme Swann in England's ODI side, he now has a chance to assert himself with Swann resting out of the series, although "assert himself" is probably the wrong phrase because he is a mild-mannered unassuming chap, very much the introvert to Swann's extrovert.

This was only his 10th ODI, and the first time India had seen him. To their cost, four top batsmen now know a little bit more. Ajinkya Rahane and Gautam Gambhir had prospered against England's quick bowlers, but Tredwell dismissed them in successive overs, tossing one high to have Rahane caught at long-off and then deceiving Gambhir in the flight to have him caught at short midwicket.

None of England's thumpings came any worse than the 158-run defeat at Rajkot's old Madhavrao Scindia ground five years ago when Yuvraj Singh, with 138, set about them. At a new stadium - immediately distinctive because of its Lord's-style media box - Yuvraj threatened to work his old magic, until he back-drove Tredwell to Jade Dernbach at short fine leg.

Briefly, it seemed as if the match might hinge on a reprieve for Suresh Raina, on 46, when he drove at Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan claimed a catch at third man, fairly enough, but there was just enough of a possibility on the TV replay that the ball had brushed the ground for the third umpire, Vineet Kulkarni, to rule "not out." India still needed 95 from 10 overs at that point, but Tredwell soon straightened one on a placid surface and held Raina's soft return catch. Swann would have looked ready to burst into song at that; Tredwell merely smiled in surprise.

The crowd were stirred, nevertheless, chants of "Dhoni, Dhoni" gaining in intensity after an outrageous one-handed six off Samit Patel. But Dernbach, whose line to the left-handers had been so awry that it demanded a scribbled reminder to do better if he could find space on those powerful, tattooed forearms, removed Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja in the same over, Dhoni failing to muscle a slower ball over long-off.

As serenely as Ian Bell and Alastair Cook proceeded to give England a flattering start, in an opening stand of 158 in 27.4 overs, England's most destructive batsmen, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan, were restricted to a brace of 40s. An uninhibited final fling by Patel, who made 44 not out from 20 balls, as 38 came from the last two overs, was a necessary flourish. Ishant, who always seemed to be bowling at the wrong time, conceded 20 in the penultimate over and leaked 86 in all.

Bell again looked so comfortable at the top of England's order in 50-over cricket that it is now hard to believe it took him so long to settle there. There was nothing outlandish in his strokeplay, just an exercise in technique and timing. His form has been a boon to Giles, their productive relationship at Warwickshire restated at international level.

Bell, on 15, edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar between MS Dhoni and R Ashwin, who was virtually stood at second slip, with both fielders motionless. It was apparent in the Test series that Dhoni's captaincy responsibilities sometimes submerge his keeping and he remained rooted. But these moments soon became distant regrets as Bell crept up the pitch surreptitiously in search of elegant drives.

Cook was not quite as mellifluous, but his resourcefulness is beyond doubt. Whatever he puts his mind to at the moment, he achieves and he is minded to lead England to a one-day series win in India. That would not be one of his most important prizes, but it would be one of his most remarkable.

Bell was run out by Rahane, who hit direct as the batsman tried to steal a single to short fine leg and chose not to dive for the crease; Rahane also had a hand in Cook's dismissal, although on this occasion he had no need to exert himself in the same position as Cook top-edged a sweep off Raina.

Raina sneaked in five overs for 18 as England's innings slowed; Joe Root, on debut, was to do the same for England later. Others had less cause for pleasure: Ashwin's tactic of stalling in his delivery stride, a method first employed by Robert Croft for England, was over-used and disturbed his own rhythm more than the batsmen's.

To see Pietersen and Morgan joining forces at 172 for 2 in the 32nd over was unnerving for India, but both began tentatively as Morgan, after some whip-crack flat-batting, fell to a return catch by Ashok Dinda, who fumbled and cradled the rebound. Pietersen lofted Dinda to long-on. Just when it seemed that England's innings was losing impetus, Patel proved otherwise.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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