CRICKET / Opener remains unbeaten on 113; India takes the series 3-2; Raina named ‘Man of the Series’
: For nearly 20,000 cricket lovers thronging the HPCA Stadium here, the fifth One-Day International held more than just academic interest. It was a Sunday outing, under the soft winter sun, meant to be spent cheering their heroes. However, at the end of the day, the only consoling thought they carried home was that India was the winner of the series. The World champion could neither get inspired by the occasion — playing the first-ever ODI here — nor draw motivation from the support of die-hard fans. On the other hand, playing for pride and desperate for a victory, England paced its chase well and crossed the finish line with seven wickets to spare.
Opener Ian Bell became the only centurion of the series as he scored an unbeaten 113 and accomplished the job with an unbroken 84-run stand with the flamboyant Eoin Morgan off just 11.4 overs. With England finishing the series, like it had started, with a win, India had to settle for a 3-2 scoreline in the five-match series.
With Sunday proving to be an off-day for the Indian top-order, England was made to look far more effective in conditions assisting swing bowling. If an unchanged Indian combination recovered from 79 for five to set a none-too-intimidating target of 227, it was mainly due to Man-of-the-Series Suresh Raina’s strokeful 83 and his retrieving 78-run sixth-wicket stand with Ravindra Jadeja.
Bell ensured there were no alarm bells for England. The 30-year-old scored his third century in 123 ODI appearances. He produced an innings of purpose — dotted with a six and 13 boundaries — after the cheap dismissals of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.
With England 35 runs from victory, Morgan changed gears. He smashed three sixes — one off R. Ashwin and two in one over from Mohammad Shami — to hasten the end.
After asking India to bat, England owed it to Tim Bresnan, surprisingly retained in the playing eleven despite nursing an elbow injury. India could never quite recover from Bresnan’s twin blows that sent back make-shift opener Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli off successive deliveries, caught at second slip by James Tredwell on both occasions in the fourth over.
Quite fittingly, Bresnan returned to claim the last two wickets as well. In between, Tredwell experienced an eventful day. To go with his two catches, the off-spinner accounted for Gautam Gambhir and Jadeja to prove that the Indians were not just suspects against disciplined swing bowling only. Later, Tredwell’s attempt to hold on to a catch offered by Ashwin ended in a six!
If India staggered and stumbled at the start of the innings, it was due to poor shot selection. Less than 24 hours after Raina had stressed on the importance of keeping wickets in hand in order to accelerate in the last 15 overs of the innings, the Indian top-order was back in the pavilion in quick time.
Contrary to indications given by M.S. Dhoni, Raina was not sent up the order. But with India reeling at 24 for three, the left-hander had to walk in after only 6.5 overs! Raina and Jadeja pushed England back a little thereafter. They added 78 in 105 deliveries to raise hopes of setting a challenging target.
The duo fought hard and did not miss out on loose deliveries. In Raina’s company, Jadeja grew in confidence and hit two sixes and a boundary. However, with the batting Power Play on, Jadeja had a rush of blood. He charged down to Tredwell and the resultant top-edge was taken easily at backward point.
Raina, who hit two straight sixes and eight well-struck boundaries, followed 20 runs later when his mistimed pull off swing-bowler Chris Woakes, coming in for Jade Dernbach, was pouched by Bell at mid-wicket. With Raina the seventh wicket out and 8.2 overs still remaining, chances of India posting a challenging total ended. Later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashwin used the long handle to provide the late flourish, but the total never looked adequate.