SPORT

Giles helps England scrape through

Man-of-the-match Ashley Giles, who bagged five wickets, lures Ajay Ratra into stepping out and wicketkeeper James Foster does the rest in the fifth one-day international in New Delhi on Thursday. - Photos: V.V. Krishnan

Man-of-the-match Ashley Giles, who bagged five wickets, lures Ajay Ratra into stepping out and wicketkeeper James Foster does the rest in the fifth one-day international in New Delhi on Thursday. - Photos: V.V. Krishnan  

NEW DELHI, JAN. 31. Two runs separated the teams as England fought off a determined Indian onslaught at the Ferozeshah Kotla to win the penultimate match of the series. It meant that the last contest at Mumbai remained `alive' with England narrowing the deficit to 2-3.

It may not have been a spectacle but it was a highly competitive match which saw left-arm spinner Ashley Giles come up with an incisive second spell after being clouted by Sourav Ganguly in the first.

The lanky Englishman, adjudged `man of the match', had the last laugh as he foxed the Indian skipper to trigger a slide which ended in a close triumph for the visitors. Ajit Agarkar would have pulled off a victory with his bat but for a terrific last-over by Darren Gough when India needed nine runs.

The thrilling match was a tribute to the audience which had faced all kinds of hardship in gaining entry to the stadium. They trudged miles, braved baton-swinging cops from very early in the day and for their sheer patience and discipline the spectators deserved a cracker of a contest. If they returned home disappointed, it was due to a sterling performance by the English.

The Indians made a surprising decision to field first and England made some uncharacteristic errors when defending a target of 272 before recovering in time. Ganguly struck some lusty blows as he guided the Indian chase but he failed to finish the job, succumbing to his instincts to loft the ball. Mohammad Kaif, who had flourished in his skipper's shadow, was snared by the crafty Giles, their 111-run stand raising hopes of an Indian win. From a healthy position, India slid rapidly towards defeat, losing five wickets for 28 runs as the inexperienced middle-order caved in to Giles, bowling around the stumps in his second spell after the first cost him 32 runs off four overs.

``We lost the match at this stage. They (Mongia, Kaif and Badani) have got the abilities. Kaif played better than I expected. We've to stick with these guys. They are the best,'' said Ganguly.

Knight hits century

Giles' performance was motivated by Nick Knight's gem earlier as the opener played a knock in keeping with his potential. The English innings was a strong challenge built around his attractive century, his fourth overall. The left- hander paced his knock well after the Indian attack was mauled by Marcus Trescothick (36, 40b, 5x4).

Having allowed Trescothick to initiate the planned attack, Knight took on the Indian bowlers with a chanceless knock, laying emphasis on scorching drives even though a couple of stunning pulls showed his disdain for the Indian bowlers. His 131-ball show contained seven 4s and ended from a run out. His innings apart, England prospered through skipper Nasser Hussain (49, 70b, 4x4) and a blistering charge by Andrew Flintoff (52, 30b, 6x4, 1x6). Among the Indians, Anil Kumble alone commanded respect with Srinath producing a tight second spell.

The Indians stuck to the opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag with the latter in blazing form, cracking seven boundaries. After Tendulkar fell, Sehwag continued his aggression but his dismissal broke the tempo - Knight clinching the snick in slips after having grassed the batsman at 10 off Flintoff.

Dinesh Mongia was unconvincing and here Ganguly took over the mantle, hitting five 4s and hoisting Giles for three 6s with Kaif keeping the partnership going.

The Indians were approaching the target smoothly when Ganguly (85 balls) failed to clear the man at long-off and Kaif was lured into lobbing the ball to covers. Even as a section of the crowd pelted a couple of fielders on the boundary, the English sensed a chance and grabbed it as Badani, Ajay Ratra and Kumble succumbed to the pressure.

Agarkar's heroics in vain

Agarkar confronted the English with some excellent batting but he ran out of steam against the wily Gough and his mates. A diving stop by Hussain prevented a boundary and then Giles got into the act at point to leave the Indians frustrated. It was just the kind of team effort Hussain had been looking forward to.

The scores:

England: M. Trescothick c Sarandeep b Agarkar 36, N. Knight (run out) 105, N. Hussain c Ratra b Tendulkar 49, A. Flintoff c Kaif b Srinath 52, P. Collingwood (not out) 8, G. Thorpe b Agarkar 2, M. Vaughan (not out) 7. Extras (lb-10, nb-2) 12. Total (for five wkts in 50 overs) 271.

Fall of wickets: 1-51, 2-168, 3-248, 4- 254, 5-260.

India bowling: Srinath 10-0-47-1 (nb-1), Agarkar 10-0-62-2, Kumble 10-0-37-0, Sarandeep 5-0-34-0 (nb-1), Ganguly 3-0-19-0, Tendulkar 9-0-45-1, Sehwag 3-0-17-0.

India: V. Sehwag c Knight b Gough 42, S. Tendulkar c Foster b Caddick 18, S. Ganguly c O. Shah (sub) b Giles 74, D. Mongia c Foster b Flintoff 20, M. Kaif c Thorpe b Giles 46, H. Badani c and b Giles 2, A. Ratra st Foster b Giles 10, A. Agarkar (not out) 36, A. Kumble b Giles 2, Sarandeep Singh (not out) 6. Extras (lb-3, nb-1, w-9) 13. Total (for eight wkts in 50 overs) 269.

Fall of wickets: 1-39, 2-68, 3-100, 4- 211, 5-212, 6-219, 7-227, 8-239.

England bowling: Caddick 10-1-39-1 (nb- 1), Flintoff 7-1-41-1, Gough 10-0-53-1 (w-1), Vaughan 7-0-40-0 (w-7), Giles 10-0-57-5 (w-1), Collingwood 6-0-36-0.

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