CRICKET / Record opening stand by Cook and Bell; game chase by the host is of no avail
India found England’s 325 stiff to conquer in the first one-day international of the Airtel series here on Friday.
Powered by a spectacular opening stand between Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, England posted a big total that demanded a run chase at a rate in excess of six an over.
Ajinkya Rahane and Gautam Gambhir made a bold effort and Yuvraj Singh unleashed shots to regain the momentum lost, but India just could not find a man to take it past the finishing line.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni showed glimpses of his potential hitting four sixes to rekindle hopes, but once his lofted drive was held in the deep, England proceeded to win the match by nine runs.
India will certainly rue the last two overs from the experienced Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda that cost 38 runs.
While the England batsmen displayed determination, it was off-spinner James Tredwell’s remarkable bowling (four for 44) in the non-power-play overs that choked the supply of runs for the home team.
Even Suresh Raina and Dhoni could not press hard in the batting power-play (36-40) that produced only 33 runs.
At the end of the 40th over England had made 232 and India 231, but the fielding side held its nerves.
Cook and Bell, opening in an ODI for the first time outside England, gave a dream start to their side’s campaign. The heavy black-soil component in the pitch in these parts has been a source of encouragement for batsmen.
The England pair could not have hoped for a better strip than the one on which local heroes Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja have amassed runs at the new venue after it was put to use for the first time four years ago.
After winning the toss, Cook and Bell cantered to a record 158-run stand in 27.4 overs; it was their second century stand and it improved upon Barry Wood and Chris Tavare’s 133 that remained unchallenged for 30 years.
It was Bell who sized up the pitch quickly and augmented the scoring in the opening power-play. Not in the best of form in the Tests, Bell was made to hurry through his opening scoring shot by Ishant Sharma but he still got a boundary wide of second slip.
He also benefited from an over-throw that crossed the line, but thereafter he was all positive. Bell blasted front foot drives without any apprehension of the ball playing any mischief off the wicket. The thin atmosphere at the noon start also did not allow for alarming swing.
Taking his time
The England skipper, while allowing Bell the freedom to attack the new ball operators, took time to settle down.
But once he found his touch, he cut and carved Ishant in the sixth over for three boundaries and looked more dangerous than his right-handed partner.
The left-hander moved swiftly to whip an on-side four of Ashoke Dinda and than got down on his knees to execute his trademark sweep.
Soon he stepped down the pitch, lifted Ravichandran Ashwin for a straight six and confirmed his complete control over the Indian attack.
India made one change from the previous eleven that beat Pakistan and the unfortunate victim was seamer Shami Ahmed.
Dinda was removed after an over in which he conceded seven runs and his second spell of four overs cost him 25 runs.
Ashwin introduced in the 11th over did not concede a boundary in his first three overs, but his delayed release once he thrust his front foot close to the popping crease was generally read well and punished.
Even as the England opening pair was going strong and looked set to notch their individual centuries, India got rid of both.
Rahane’s smart work at short fine leg, a direct hit at the ‘keeper’s end, caught Bell short of his ground.
Fourteen runs later Raina was penalised for a wide, but off the first legal ball of his fifth over, Cook swept into the hands of Rahane at short fine leg.
The home team appeared to have retrieved some ground, but Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Chris Kieswetter and Samit Patel all struck big blows and scored 44 runs in the batting power-play from 36 to 40 overs.
India did not get any wicket cheaply and its bowlers were hammered for 35 fours and eight sixes.