Done in by the slog-sweep

YUVRAJ SINGH receives the Man of the Match award from ICC president Ehsan Mani.-MAHESH HARILAL

England paid the price for indiscretion. Mistakes were repeated and the batsmen's obsession for the SLOG-SWEEP was incomprehensible, writes VIJAY LOKAPALLY.

Kochi, despite its testing weather conditions, is a hit with the Indian cricketers. The Nehru Stadium, in April, is a cauldron, but it still offers excellent facilities for the players. The dressing rooms and the playing field match international standards, and effort is made to provide the spectators the best of comforts. "We have no control on the weather but we try our best to give the spectators as much comfort as possible," said the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) president S. K. Nair.

However, it was a pity that the fourth one-dayer of the seven-match series turned out to be as one-sided as the previous three matches in Delhi, Faridabad and Goa. England failed to raise its game and the paying public was deprived of the quality entertainment it deserved.

Kochi stands out on many counts. The spectators, sitting under the scorching sun, are impeccable in their behaviour and acknowledge the efforts of the players.

RAHUL DRAVID and Harbhajan Singh celebrate India's victory.-AP

Rahul Dravid's beaming face reflected the joy of having wrapped up the series with three matches still to go, as India won the fourth ODI by four wickets. As the Indian skipper observed, it was hard on England, but it paid the price for being disorganised. Mistakes were repeated and the batsmen's obsession for the slog-sweep was incomprehensible.

The Englishmen were understandably disappointed, especially Kevin Pietersen, who carried the team's hopes on his shoulders with a pleasing innings of 77. His batting was crucial to England's success, but the lanky stroke-maker refused to learn from the follies of the recent past when the slog-sweep not only cost him his wicket but the match too.

England had its moments, but Dravid (65) summed it up nicely when he said, "It was good to keep coming back. We did really well to restrict them on flat conditions." Once again Yuvraj Singh (48 and two for 34) took up the responsibility and came up with a match-winning performance. He symbolised the policy of the team management of developing players for specific conditions.

"We need to develop the squad now, try out a few things," Dravid remarked. The success of Yuvraj and Suresh Raina in difficult conditions is a boost to the tactical preparation for the World Cup. The two form an important part of the Indian scheme.

The batting slot of Yuvraj could be debated by some for he deserves to be pushed up the order. But then the team management believes he is best suited to carry the lower order with youngsters rallying around him.

Kevin Pietersen sets off for a run.-SHAJU JOHN

Yuvraj, adjudged Man of the Match for the second successive match, relishes situations when the responsibility is thrust upon him. He likes to carry the innings. "I think I grow when I am faced with a stiff challenge," he said.

Yuvraj has a superb understanding with Raina, the confident youngster who is making his mark in a team that encourages competition among its ranks in order to get the best out of the players.

Raina's ability to pace his innings speaks of his maturity. "He is a player who can serve the team for long," was Dravid's assessment of the Uttar Pradesh left-hander. Dravid should know, for he was among the early promoters of Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif when they were still competing in the junior grade.

The Indian team achieved a creditable distinction of having recorded its 15th successful chase in one-day cricket. The previous record belonged to Clive Lloyd's formidable West Indian squad that crushed its opponents over two seasons — from 1984 to 1986. That the feat was achieved in Kochi was all the more enjoyable for the sporting fans of this coastal city.

For the photographers, Kochi happens to be the only venue where they are provided shade and water without having to plead for such facilities. The media too had little complaints. The KCA had erected an air-conditioned press box just for this fixture. "We will dismantle the structure after the match," said Mr. Nair, who stressed on the host association's desire to make cricket watching a pleasure in Kochi.


4th ODI, India v England, Nehru Stadium, Kochi, April 6, 2006.

England: A. Strauss lbw b Pathan 7; M. Prior c Dhoni b Sreesanth 14; K. Pietersen c Yuvraj b Harbhajan 77; P. Collingwood c & b Yuvraj 36; A. Flintoff c Dravid b Yuvraj 12; V. Solanki b Powar 12; G. Jones (run out) 49; I. Blackwell c & b Sehwag 6; G. Batty lbw b Sehwag 2; M. Hoggard (run out) 7; J. Anderson (not out) 1; Extras (lb-11, w-1, nb-2) 14. Total (in 48.4 overs) 237.

Fall of wkts: 1-10, 2-26, 3-117, 4-153, 5-155, 6-172, 7-197, 8-203, 9-231.

India bowling: Pathan 4.4-0-27-1; Sreesanth 5-0-29-1; Agarkar 5-0-28-0; Harbhajan 10-1-36-1; Powar 10-0-41-1; Yuvraj 8-1-34-2; Sehwag 6-0-31-2.

India: V. Sehwag c Solanki b Blackwell 26; R. Dravid c Hoggard b Flintoff 65; I. Pathan st. Prior b Blackwell 46; M. Kaif c Anderson b Flintoff 5; Yuvraj c Prior b Anderson 48; S. Raina c Blackwell b Anderson 21; M. Dhoni (not out) 10; R. Powar (not out) 2; Extras (lb-1, w-7, nb-7) 15. Total (for six wkts., in 47.2 overs) 238.

Fall of wkts: 1-54, 2-130, 3-152, 4-152, 5-224, 6-224.

England bowling: Anderson 10-1-53-2; Hoggard 9-0-59-0; Flintoff 8-0-33-2; Blackwell 10-1-41-2; Batty 8.2-0-41-0; Collingwood 2-0-10-0.