England lands the first big punch

Match-winner... James Tredwell (centre) celebrates with team-mates, Samit Patel and Eoin Morgan, after dismissing Yuvraj Singh. The off-spinner claimed four for 44 to put the skids under India.-PTI Match-winner... James Tredwell (centre) celebrates with team-mates, Samit Patel and Eoin Morgan, after dismissing Yuvraj Singh. The off-spinner claimed four for 44 to put the skids under India.

The first of the five-match one-day series between India and England had all the ingredients of a thriller — electrifying stroke-play, tall scores and an exciting finish. By G. Viswanath.

England (325) outsmarted India (316) in a high-scoring match in batsman-friendly conditions in Rajkot. The surface was flat, the outfield lightning fast and the light was bright for the batsmen to call the shots in the first match of the Airtel one-day series.

Almost every seat at the ICC-approved new venue — some 15 kilometres from Rajkot — was occupied by cricket crazy fans.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and a few other Saurashtra batsmen have all accumulated runs on the black-soil filled featherbed that curator Rasik Makwana has been rolling out for decades at the Race Course ground. It was no different at the new venue at Khanderi Village that was built at a cost of Rs. 75 crore.

Niranjan Shah, the vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA), measured the pitch as one on which 300 runs a side could be scored. He was proved right, though for the crowd it turned out to be a disappointment with the home team going down by nine runs after an engaging contest. Off-spinner James Tredwell (4 for 44) bowled to his field in the non-powerplay overs and England restricted India in the batting powerplay from the 36th to the 40th over.

England has been the flavour of the international season in India though Pakistan did its bit to win the one-day series recently.

Nearly 2000 people stood outside the team hotel, located on the busy Yagnik Road, when the Indian and English teams arrived two days before the match. So the build-up for the first one-day international was perfect. And with the tickets sold out, the match was assured of a roaring start.

The crowd may not have been spontaneous in appreciating the fireworks from the England openers, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, and afterwards from Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel and Chris Kieswetter, but it was an opportunity for the English batsmen to land the first big punch on the home team.

Cook and Bell had opened the innings in a one-day international (Natwest Trophy) for England against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2008, with the pair raising a half-century. It took almost four years for them to open again and they raised 122 against the West Indies at The Oval in June 2012.

The two made it a special day for themselves and their team as Cook (75, 83 balls, 11x4, 1x6) and Bell (85, 96 balls, 9x4, 1x6) tore into the Indian seamers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma, and the rest of the bowling to put on 158 for the first wicket in 27. 4 overs — a record for England against India. It bettered Barry Wood and Chris Tavare’s 133 against India at Headingley in 1982.

Cook and Bell played every shot in the book; drives, cuts, pulls, lofted shots and even the reverse sweeps and switch-hits. Once Ajinkya Rahane ended their tenure in the middle, bringing off a fine run-out and then taking an easy catch at short fine leg, Pietersen and Morgan first and then Patel and Kieswetter went hammer and tongs to take England well past the 300-mark.

Sharma and Kumar were walloped for 138 runs in 17 overs. India chose Dinda for Mohammad Shami, who had impressed on debut against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla. “If you see the game he played (against Pakistan) the wicket was really seaming. We have to look how good he is when it comes to bowling yorkers and on wickets like these where there is not much on offer for the fast bowlers. That’s why we went for Dinda because he is experienced and he executes the yorkers well,” explained Dhoni.

Undaunted by the tall total, India began the chase well with Gautam Gambir and Rahane making 96 in under 17 overs. But after the openers and Virat Kohli fell, India lost a bit of the momentum.

The 60-run stand for the fourth wicket between Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina brought India back into the game, but once these two fell, Dhoni found the asking rate a bit too tough to achieve. The crowd left the ground with images of the Indian captain hitting four sixes and a dazzling laser show.

THE SCORES

First ODI — India v England, Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot, January 11, 2013. England won by nine runs.

England: A. N. Cook c Rahane b Raina 75, I. R. Bell (run out) 85, K. P. Pietersen c Kohli b Dinda 44, E. J. G. Morgan c & b Dinda 41, C. Kieswetter (not out) 24, S. R. Patel (not out) 44, Extras (w-10, nb-2) 12. Total (for 4 wkts in 50 overs) 325.

Fall of wickets: 1-158, 2-172, 3-248, 4-255.

India bowling: B. Kumar 7-0-52-0, Ishant 10-2-86-0, Dinda 8-0-53-2, Ashwin 9-0-61-0, Jadeja 10-0-46-0, Raina 5-0-18-1, Kohli 1-0-9-0.

India: A. M. Rahane c Dernbach b Tredwell 47, G. Gambhir c Bell b Tredwell 52, V. Kohli c Kieswetter b Bresnan 15, Yuvraj Singh c Dernbach b Tredwell 61, S. K. Raina c & b Tredwell 50, M. S. Dhoni c Root b Dernbach 32, R. A. Jadeja b Dernbach 7, R. Ashwin c Kieswetter b Finn 13, B. Kumar (not out) 20, A. B. Dinda b Bresnan 3, Ishant Sharma (not out) 7, Extras (lb-1, w-7, nb-1) 9. Total (for 9 wkts in 50 overs) 316.

Fall of wickets: 1-96, 2-102, 3-138, 4-198, 5-243, 6-271, 7-273, 8-297, 9-307.

England bowling: Finn 10-0-63-1, Dernbach 10-0-69-2, Bresnan 8-0-67-2, Tredwell 10-0-44-4, Root 9-0-51-0, Patel 3-0-21-0.