Depth proves decisive

The magic moment of the game was when Monty Panesar castled Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a left-armer’s dream ball: it drifted in, pitched on the middle, and hit the off-stump, writes S. Dinakar.

The key to success in ODI cricket is often about building the squad with the right kind of balance. England had come up woefully short in this department earlier. Now the selectors and the team management are, finally, getting their act right.

A winning one-day side is often one with depth and options. Such a side bats deep, and also has variety and alternatives in its attack.

“Broad coming in at No. 9 is a great thing for them,” said Rahul Dravid.

Now, the young Broad is a new ball bowler, and a capable one at that. And for the Indian skipper, not the kind to lavish praise, to speak highly of his batting credentials suggests Broad is a capable batsman as well.

Ravi Bopara, someone with a cool head, supple wrists, and the ability to pick his spots on the field, walks in at No. 8. He is a cricketer, who, according to several critics here, could find a place in the Test squad on the strength of his batting. Bopara can also send down cutters.

Then we have the Big Daddy, Andrew Flintoff, arguably the leading all-rounder in the world, sauntering in at No. 6 or No. 7. Among the meanest pacemen, with speed, bounce and reverse swing, he can alter scripts with a few big blows.

Skipper Paul Collingwood, a stroke-maker with a tigerish resolve, is also a clever seam bowler changing his length and pace. And let’s not forget Dimitri Mascarenhas, a power hitter and a handy seam up bowler in this form of the game.

These are all multi-dimensional cricketers. One of them, Flintoff, is a world class all-rounder. And another, Broad, has the potential to develop into one.

India, with Irfan Pathan out of the side, is without an all-rounder.

England is progressing as a one-day unit and India, struggling.

The host, even at 114 for seven in the 24th over, chasing 213 under the lights at Old Trafford, was in with a chance.

Bopara, squeezing the ball into the gaps square off the pitch, and Broad, standing tall and striking the ball off his back-foot through the arc between cover and mid-wicket, added 99 match-winning runs. This was clean stroke-play by cricketers with the right temperament. The contest was over in the 48th over and England took a 3-1 lead in the seven-match NatWest series.

Broad might have been extremely fortunate not to have been adjudged leg-before to leg-spinner Piyush Chawla when on 25. However, this has been a campaign where both sides have gained from umpiring errors.

India displayed much passion and intensity while defending an inadequate total. Ajit Agarkar, handed a life-line, bowled out of his skin and picked up four wickets.

His bowling, with a quick-arm action, contained speed, movement and bounce. Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Flintoff were among his victims. Earlier, Zaheer Khan had taken out Alastair Cook’s middle stump. India also, rightly, began with a left-right new-ball combination, with Rudra Pratap Singh coming in as one change.

The effort of the bowlers notwithstanding, the side’s outfielding was once again disappointing. The side could not quite put pressure on the Englishmen. Ramesh Powar bowled his off-spinners with flight, dip and subtle variations. The Indians, with no other option really, attacked and Owais Shah was picked up at short-leg off Powar. Young leggie Piyush found it hard to cope with the ‘white ball-dew’ factor.

The Indians, charged up, displayed much aggression in the arena, even if some of it was overdone. There was a lot of chatting happening and the umpires had to talk to Rahul Dravid about the verbal barrage by Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer and Dinesh Karthik. After the game, match referee Roshan Mahanama had a talk with the captains.

Earlier, Dravid batted after calling right. The Indians were dented early with James Anderson and Broad striking, but Sachin Tendulkar, driving and flicking majestically under a partial cloud cover and gusty winds, made a fluent half-century before losing his concentration against Kevin Pietersen’s off-spin.

Yuvraj stroked with panache — his feet moved better — and applied himself well. His 71 was the highest individual score of the match.

He was finally consumed by Broad — slammed around for 16 runs in an over in his earlier spell by Yuvraj — who foxed and bowled the left-hander with a slower, full length ball. Broad ended up with four wickets, and then produced a match-winning innings. The adjudicators had little problem selecting the Player of the Match.

However, the magic moment of the game was when Monty Panesar castled Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a left-armer’s dream ball: it drifted in, pitched on the middle, and hit the off-stump.

This England side has definite ODI possibilities.

THE SCORES

NatWest Series, Fourth ODI, Old Trafford, August 30, 2007. England won by three wickets.

India: S. Ganguly c Bell b Anderson 9; S. Tendulkar c Flintoff b Pietersen 55; D. Karthik c Prior b Broad 4; R. Dravid c Prior b Flintoff 1; Yuvraj Singh b Broad 71; M. Dhoni b Panesar 13; A. Agarkar c Prior b Broad 6; R. Powar c Bell b Broad 7; P. Chawla (not out) 13; Zaheer Khan c Collingwood b Anderson 20; R. P. Singh c Bopara b Anderson 0; Extras (lb-4, w-8, nb-1) 13. Total (in 49.4 overs) 212.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-31, 3-32, 4-103, 5-140, 6-147, 7-178, 8-179, 9-210.

England bowling: Broad 10-1-51-4; Anderson 9.4-2-38-3; Flintoff 10-3-31-1; Panesar 10-0-39-1; Collingwood 9-0-43-0; Pietersen 1-0-6-1.

England: A. Cook b Zaheer 0; M. Prior c Powar b Agarkar 4; I. Bell b Agarkar 24; K. Pietersen c Chawla b Agarkar 18; P. Collingwood (run out) 47; A. Flintoff c Yuvraj b Agarkar 5; O. Shah c Karthik b Powar 8; R. Bopara (not out) 43; S. Broad (not out) 45; Extras (lb-5, w-13, nb-1) 19. Total (for seven wkts., in 48 overs) 213.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-14, 3-35, 4-81, 5-95, 6-110, 7-114.

India bowling: Zaheer 9-1-45-1; Agarkar 10-0-60-4; R. P. Singh 6-0-22-0; Chawla 10-0-43-0; Powar 10-0-26-1; Yuvraj 2-0-8-0; Tendulkar 1-0-4-0.