A knock to remember

G. VISWANATH

IT was a day of surprises. Not far away from Mumbai's cricket venue, Wankhede Stadium, 'D' Road, Churchgate, Starsky scored an upset win over the fancied Ansbach in the season's popular Indian Derby, on the tracks at Worli. The goodly and colourful crowd took the result in its stride. But then came another surprise for cricket lovers, when England recorded a sensational victory over India.

Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly and England captain Nasser Hussain pose with the LG Cup. P. C. Alexander, Governor of Maharashtra, is seen next to Ganguly. The team shared the Cup since the series ended 3-3.-VIVEK BENDRE

Well, whether India's loss can really be termed as a surprise? Its performances have become almost predictable now. Leading 3-1, before it went about the task of chasing 271 at the Ferozeshah Kotla, it faltered at the finish. It lost by two runs.

Three days later, at the magnificent looking Wankhede, at full capacity, Sourav Ganguly's team missed a 4-2 series win by five runs. England set a target of 256 and India made 250. Hence the LG Cup was shared by the teams.

England, as a team, did an admirable job. One can never forget the resilience of Andrew Flintoff, who won more admirers. He went home with a lot of pride and accolades.

He took his shirt off after taking the last wicket of Javagal Srinath in the last over of the match. He was dancing like a child and was mobbed by his teammates. It was an extraordinary scene at the Wankhede Stadium which has a long history of hosting international matches, for 26 years.

Marcus Trescothick drives Anil Kumble to the fence. The Englishman made a strokeful 95.-VIVEK BENDRE

England captain, Nasser Hussain, relied on Flintoff in the end. The Lancashire all-rounder did not fail his captain. The big made pace bowler has now matured into a quality bowler. Hussain was willing to discount his batting failures, but the tall man did show his class and utility with the bat in the last two matches.

The batting position of Flintoff has been discussed and dissected several times. Former South African captain Hansie Cronje was asked a thousand times as to why someone like Lance Klusener did not merit a place high in the batting line up. Cronje's answer was: "No. 7, 8, 9 are the best for the big left-hander."

Flintoff's position is somewhat akin to that of Klusener's. He came in at the fall of the fifth wicket, Marcus Trescothick who made a lovely 95. Then Harbhajan Singh was spinning a web. England's score was 173 for five. Paul Collingwood departed at 174 and Ashley Giles too, at the same score. England's chances of levelling the series, at 174 for seven, looked bleak. It appeared England had given in, after the departure of Trescothick and Hussain. The duo clobbered the Indian bowlers, specifically the wayward Ajit Agarkar.

Trescothick batted like an aristocrat. His judgment of the length was near flawless. The downswing came in time to meet the ball and put it high over mid on, mid off and extra cover.

Curtains for India as Andrew Flintoff nails Srinath.-VIVEK BENDRE

He was enjoying his batting, though a diving Hemang Badani, at backward point, lost control of the catch offered by Trescothick to the very first ball of the match. After this Trescothick never looked back till he was out at 95. A priceless innings.

Trescothick and Hussain added 87 for the second wicket before the England captain holed out to Harbhajan Singh at deep square, a few metres inside the line, off the bowling of Sourav Ganguly.

After Hussain's dismissal (at 88), England lost wickets to Harbhajan's fine spell. Trescothick and Michael Vaughan added 65 runs for the third wicket, the latter's contribution being not much. The right-hander's exit, Ajay Ratra doing a smart work behind the wicket and the replacement of Anil Kumble by Harbhajan did the trick for India, which made a remarkable comeback into the game.

Harbhajan, striking in his fifth over, went on to complete a very effective spell. He removed Graham Thorpe, Trescothick (95, 127m, 80b, 9 x 4, 1x6), Paul Collingwood, Ashley Giles and James Foster. Flintoff took charge from this point and made a valuable 40. England added 79 runs after the fall of the seventh wicket at 174; Flintoff's contribution was sizeable in that stand. The last wicket pair added 37 runs.

Sourav Ganguly is bowled by Giles. The captain made a fighting 80.-VIVEK BENDRE

Flintoff delivered when England and Hussain needed the most. India's reply began in style with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag smashing a six each. The capacity crowd at the Wankhede had waited for nearly four and half hours (after the match began) for the Indian pair to appear in the middle.

Tendulkar soon departed. He was caught behind by James Foster. Fortunately, the crowd's patience and interest did not wear thin after the exit of Tendulkar. They had faith in Sehwag 'aka Tendulkar,' and Ganguly to carry out the task. The Indian run chase kept its course with Ganguly showing a fierce determination.

The sixes he struck, each of Andrew Caddick, Vaughan, Darren Gough and Giles, were truly spectacular. India seemed to be cruising at 155 for three and later at 191 for four when Ganguly (80, 99b, 4x4, 4x6) was bowled of his body, trying to sweep Giles.

Then Flintoff made a vital breakthrough when he got rid of Mohammad Kaif. Flintoff bowled straight and fast in the last over with India requiring 11 runs. He bowled Srinath and then started the celebration.

Harbhajan neatly takes this simple catch, offered by James Foster, off his own bowling. The spinner had a dream spell at Wankhede.-VIVEK BENDRE

Ganguly said he was disappointed that India lost six wickets for only 50-odd runs. Hussain said the turning point of the game was the partnership between Flintoff and Gough and the dismissal of Ganguly. The Man of the Match award should have gone to Flintoff, but match referee Denis Lindsay gave it to the highest scorer of the match, Trescothick. Tendulkar was adjudged the Player of the Series (the points system was used as a yardstick).

The scores:

England: M. Trescothick c & b Harbhajan 95, N. Knight c Ratra b Srinath 0, N. Hussain c Harbhajan b Ganguly 41, M. Vaughan st. Ratra b Ganguly 16, G. Thorpe st. Ratra b Harbhajan 6, P. Collingwood c Sehwag b Harbhajan 2, A. Flintoff c Agarkar b Srinath 40, A. Giles c Sehwag b Harbhajan 0, J. Foster c & b Harbhajan 13, A. Caddick c Kumble b Tendulkar 7, D. Gough (not out) 16. Extras (b-2, lb-3, w-14) 19. Total (in 49.1 overs) 255.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-88, 3-153, 4-172, 5-173, 6-174, 7-174, 8-205, 9-218.

India bowling: Srinath 7.1-0-37-2, Agarkar 5-0-47-0, Kumble 10-0-43-0, Ganguly 8-0-40-2, Harbhajan 10-1-43-5, Tendulkar 7-0-30-1, Badani 2-0-10-0.

India: V. Sehwag c Thorpe b Caddick 31, S. Tendulkar c Foster b Gough 12, S. Ganguly b Giles 80, D. Mongia st. Foster b Vaughan 35, M. Kaif c Hussain b Flintoff 20, H. Badani (not out) 27, A. Ratra c Giles b Vaughan 8, A. Agarkar c Foster b Caddick 0, Harbhajan Singh c Collingwood b Flintoff 5, A. Kumble (run out) 5, J. Srinath b Flintoff 0, Extras (b-1, lb-10, w-11, nb-5) 27. Total (in 49.5 overs) 250.

Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-88, 3-155, 4-191, 5-206, 6-224, 7-224, 8-238, 9-250.

England bowling: Caddick 10-1-61-2, Gough 10-0-56-1, Flintoff 9.5-1-38-3, Giles 10-0-47-1, Vaughan 10-1-37-2.

BUT for that blemish - when Hemang Badani failed to hold a difficult catch off the very first ball of the match - it was a gem of an innings from Marcus Trescothick at the Wankhede Stadium.

The left-hander regained his composure in double quick time and unleashed majestic shots in front of the wicket, most of it over the top. He cut and pulled the bowlers on his way to a fine 95. His opening partner Nick Knight fell in the sixth ball of the first over, to Javagal Srinath. But Trescothick and Hussain went after the Indian bowling.

Trescothick made a dangerous shot off Srinath when he was on 12. But it was a tough one for Virender Sehwag at slip. Thereafter the left-hander batted fluently and punished the short balls from Srinath and Ajit Agarkar. When Anil Kumble was brought to the attack, the England opener danced down the pitch and hit him over the straight fence.

With Trescothick in good nick, England's innings progressed at seven runs an over. At the end of the 20th over, England's score was 142 for two wickets. Then came Harbhajan's mesmerising spell. Trescothick was one of his five victims. His departure at 173 was a big blow for England before Andrew Flintoff recovered lost ground for his side.

Match referee Denis Lindsay awarded the Man of the Match to Trescothick who made the highest score in the match. Trescothick started the LG Cup series with a 121 at Kolkata and followed it up with scores of 13 (Cuttack), 36 (Chennai), 18 (Kanpur), 35 (New Delhi). His 95 at Mumbai won the match for England and the series was levelled 3-3.

Marcus Trescothick had great success on Indian soil. Right from the first Test in Mohali, Trescothick was able to size up the Indian bowling and also adjusted well on Indian pitches. It was a happy tour for the Englishman.