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Team India signs off with a flourish

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YOUNG HERO: Sreesanth bowled impressively on a wicket that suited the batsmen and picked up six wickets to boost his confidence further. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
YOUNG HERO: Sreesanth bowled impressively on a wicket that suited the batsmen and picked up six wickets to boost his confidence further. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Vijay Lokapally

Sreesanth bags 'Man of the Match'award, 'Yuvraj is 'Man of the Series'

INDORE: It was a last over verdict but without any of the thrills and frills usually associated with such a finish.

The rise of youth was evident in India's victory over England in the final contest of the seven-match TVS Cup series. Robin Uthappa's flawless innings was preceded by an inspiring six-wicket haul by `Man of the Match' S. Sreesanth as India won by seven wickets at the MPCA Stadium here on Saturday.

England, playing without Andrew Flintoff, lacked teeth in its attack while India gained immensely from its new opening pair of debutant Uthappa and Rahul Dravid, who responded to the situation chasing 289 to win with a 166-run partnership.

Raina's third fifty

Their dismissal raised only false hopes for England, as `Man of the Series' Yuvraj Singh and the ever-improving Suresh Raina, with his third fifty of the series, finished the contest in style without any further alarms by putting on 115 runs as India clinched the series 5-1.

England's complacency gave Sreesanth a flattering haul of six wickets that should go a long way in boosting his confidence.

The young paceman from Kerala bowled well to make an impression with his wonderful attitude on a true wicket.

Uthappa grabs the chance

It was a day for the youngsters to make a statement as India discovered a couple of players worth investing in.

The opening partnership destroyed England's hopes as Uthappa grabbed the opportunity with a sterling performance. There was a touch of arrogance in some of the shots that he played be it behind the stumps or the drives in front that he executed hitting through the line. And the inside-out shot was played with a flourish.

Dravid too was in his element, whipping the ball with breathtaking timing. The clipped boundaries off the hip revived memories of the days when he relished playing shots square of the wicket. This was vintage Dravid and his aggression helped Uthappa gain in confidence.

"Have not seen much of him," Dravid had said on Uthappa but he had a good look at his partner from Bangalore. It was a pleasant coincidence that Dravid and Uthappa went to the same school St. Joseph's at different times and there was a striking similarity in the manner in which they built the Indian chase.

Sehwag, Kaif rested

India had decided to rest out-of-form opener Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif. "I couldn't believe it," was Uthappa's response when he had first heard the news of his selection. On Saturday afternoon, he convinced everyone, including himself, that he had a future in this team that recognises honest efforts.

The only time Uthappa slackened, he paid for it dearly. His amble to finish the second run cost him the wicket.

He was casual in grounding his bat and it showed the 20-year-old in poor light. His 86 (94 balls, 12x4, 1x6) outshone Dravid's 79-ball 69 with nine fours.

England then ran into a belligerent Yuvraj (63 off 57 balls, six fours) and Raina (53 off 65 balls, 2x4, 1x6), who succumbed just before the finish.

Yuvraj, with his authoritative batting, made sure that England did not come back into the contest. The left-hander made three fifties and a century in the series.

His innings was crucial as the Indian batting put up a collective performance to sign off on a positive note after having started the series on a tentative note at Delhi a fortnight ago.

Earlier, Kevin Pietersen had put the Indian attack to the sword with some clinical hitting. It was a pitch that tested the bowlers' character and the only one to escape the wrath of the Englishmen were the spinners Ramesh Powar and Yuvraj, both surprisingly under-bowled.

Clinical hitting

Pietersen savaged the Indian bowling and exposed the limitations of R.P. Singh and V.R.V. Singh but the England innings lost momentum in the middle overs.

Pietersen again threw his wicket away when he had the bowlers at his mercy as he holed out after a 56-ball 64 that had 11 fours and a six a stunning on-drive in an eventful over that saw V.R.V. Singh concede 26 runs.

An electrifying start by Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell put England on the right track before the partnership ended when Dinesh Kaarthick took a brilliant diving catch.

The wicketkeeper brought off another stunner to get rid of Geraint Jones later, the two catches underlining the agility and anticipation of the Tamil Nadu lad.

Collingwood (64, 84b, 2x4, 2x6) batted brilliantly before he clubbed Pathan to long-on. Jones too was on the rampage, clobbering V.R.V. Singh and smashing Ramesh Powar but succumbed in trying to give Sreesanth the charge.

England was all out for 288, with Sreesanth picking up the last two wickets off successive balls in the final over.

SCOREBOARD

England: A. Strauss c Kaarthick b Sreesanth 25, I. Bell (run out) 32, M. Prior c Pathan b Sreesanth 2, K. Pietersen c Raina b Yuvraj 64, P. Collingwood c R.P. Singh b Pathan 64, G. Jones c Kaarthick b Sreesanth 53, I. Blackwell c Raina b Sreesanth 11, L. Plunkett c V.R.V. Singh b Sreesanth 6, K. Ali c Venugopala b Pathan 1, S. Mahmood c V.R.V. Singh b Sreesanth 9, J. Anderson (not out) 0, Extras (lb-4, nb-8, w-9): 21; Total (in 50 overs): 288.

Fall of wickets: 1-43, 2-47, 3-110, 4-165, 5-257, 6-267, 7-274, 8-277, 9-288.

India bowling: Pathan 10-1-44-2, Sreesanth 10-1-55-6, R.P. Singh 7-0-44-0, V.R.V. Singh 7-0-73-0, Powar 9-1-38-0, Yuvraj 7-0-30-1.

India: R. Uthappa (run out) 86, R. Dravid lbw b Mahmood 69, Yuvraj (not out) 63, S. Raina b Ali 53, I. Pathan (not out) 1, Extras (lb-5, nb-4, w-8): 17; Total (for three wkts. in 49.1 overs): 289.

Fall of wickets: 1-166, 2-166, 3-281.

England bowling: Anderson 8.1-0-67-0, Mahmood 10-0-61-1, Plunkett 10-0-40-0, Ali 8-0-47-1, Blackwell 10-0-51-1, Collingwood 3-0-18-0.

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