A morale-booster

Striking form at the right time... Virat Kohli pulls to the boundary during his knock of 77.-K.R. DEEPAK

Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja provide the icing on the cake as India post a comfortable victory. By S. Sabanayakan.

At a time when the World Champion crown was beginning to sit uncomfortably on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s head following the defeat to Pakistan in the ODI series recently, India’s comprehensive seven-wicket victory against England in the five-match one-day series in Ranchi comes as a huge morale booster.

Putting behind the defeat in Rajkot, Dhoni led his boys from the front in Kochi and Ranchi and inspired his team of youngsters to big deeds.

Virat Kohli, who is seen as the crown prince of Indian cricket, and the talented all-rounder, Ravindra Jadeja, provided the icing on the cake with stellar performances.

On an untested pitch, Dhoni winning the toss was a boon. England, led by Alastair Cook, found the going tough on a wicket that offered plenty of bounce and movement to the pacers. After the three Indian medium pacers shared the top three wickets, off-spinner R. Ashwin and left-arm spinner Jadeja got into the act to break the middle-order and set up the match nicely for India by restricting England to 155.

Ian Bell’s laborious 25, Joe Root’s patient 39 and Tim Bresnan’s quick 25 featured in the England total that was the lowest by the team so far on the tour.

Following his two for 12 in Kochi, Jadeja picked up three wickets for 19 runs in Ranchi. The Saurashtra all-rounder, with his accurate line and tantalising length, will serve Indian cricket for long.

“Bowling-wise, he is quite settled. It’s his batting that we need to work on. He is also an excellent fielder,” was what Dhoni said about Jadeja.

“The more games he plays, the better he will get. He has gained a lot of confidence in the last few games. He’s always been talented. At the international level he needs to score runs and take wickets. He needs to be more confident about himself,” the Indian skipper added.

For India, the target of 156 never looked daunting despite the two English new ball operators, Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach, generating a lot of pace and bounce. Ajinkya Rahane, who looks a little out of place at this level, was beaten and bowled by Finn.

Virat Kohli then strode in and survived a shout for leg-before which must have rattled him. Gautam Gambhir was far from convincing at the other end but strove manfully to keep one end going. It only took a few balls for Kohli to make his intentions clear.

Following a run of poor scores, Kohli had to prove himself and Ranchi provided him the platform. A murderous pull followed by a flick off his toes — all for boundaries — off Dernbach was the perfect way for the 24-year-old batsman to launch his assault. Soon shots of class flowed from his blade as first Gambhir (33) and later Yuvraj Singh (30) gave him company as India coasted to victory. Skipper Dhoni hit the winning runs.

Kohli’s match-winning unbeaten 77 saw him complete 4000 runs in ODIs. Dhoni was extremely happy to see another of his young brigade strike form. “It’s good to see Kohli play so well. He paced his innings beautifully and played the big shots,” Dhoni said.

Cook was quite sharp in his criticism of the English batsmen for not coming good in two successive matches. “What you can’t have is everyone getting a start and then no one going on to get a big score. We got out with poor shot selection or poor technique. It is not (enough for) just one or two to score runs. The batting unit has to come good,” he said.

“What is disappointing is that none of us has performed and if you want to win games someone has to stand up. It is a little bit frustrating because there are some seriously good players in the squad. We’ve picked a squad that we think is good enough to win the series over here,” he added.

THE SCORES

Third ODI — India v England, HEC International Cricket Stadium Complex, Ranchi, January 19, 2013. India won by seven wickets.

England: A. Cook lbw b Shami 17, I. Bell c Dhoni b Kumar 25, K. Pietersen c Dhoni b Sharma 17, J. Root c Dhoni b Sharma 39, E. Morgan c Yuvraj b Ashwin 10, C. Kieswetter b Jadeja 0, S. Patel lbw b Jadeja 0, T. Bresnan b Ashwin 25, J. Tredwell (not out) 4, S. Finn c Yuvraj b Raina 3, J. Dernbach b Jadeja 0. Extras (lb-6, w-9) 15. Total (in 42.2 overs) 155.

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-68, 3-68, 4-97, 5-98, 6-98, 7-145, 8-145, 9-155.

India bowling: Kumar 10-2-40-1, Shami 8-0-23-1, Sharma 7-0-29-2, Jadeja 6.2-0-19-3, Ashwin 10-0-37-2, Raina 1-0-1-1.

India: G. Gambhir c Root b Tredwell 33, A. Rahane b Finn 0, V. Kohli (not out) 77, Yuvraj Singh b Tredwell 30, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 10. Extras (b-1, lb-1, w-5) 7. Total (for 3 wkts in 28.1 overs) 157.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-78, 3-144.

England bowling: Finn 9.1-0-50-1, Dernbach 5-0-45-0, Bresnan 7-2-31-0, Tredwell 7-1-29-2.