Excitement all the way

Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar (below) came up with timely nineties.-Pics: AP Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar (below) came up with timely nineties.

India, learning from the debacle at the Rose Bowl, rightly played five bowlers in the XI in the second NatWest series ODI in sunny Bristol. S. Dinakarreports.

It was one of those nights when a post-match press conference led to an interesting debate — about the role of the spinners in one-day cricket.

India, boldly, had picked two spinners in the XI on a small ground, on a surface that had a sprinkling of grass. The strategy paid.

Under the lights, the two spinners, Piyush Chawla and Ramesh Powar, bowled with heart and craft, flighting the ball even when the batsmen went after them.

Skipper Dravid, too, had orchestrated the bowling changes well, even if he could do little about the sloppy fielding and catching that allowed England come within two blows of surpassing India’s 329 for seven in 50 overs.

“It was a bit of a risk, but the two spinners bowled well. It was a small ground. Importantly we took wickets in the middle overs. We did not do that in the first game,” said Dravid.

Then, the skipper delved deeper into the role of the spinners in the ODI game. He was responding to a question on managing two spinners with 20 Power Play overs in an innings.

“It is difficult. You cannot bring them on early because you are allowed only two fielders outside the circle during the Power Play overs. The games get monotonous and predictable.”

Here, Dravid welcomed the new ICC rule, to come into effect from October 1 this year that would allow an extra fielder outside the circle in the second and third blocks of the Power Play overs.

Said Dravid: “I think it will add a lot to one-day cricket. It will bring more spinners into the game. Make it more interesting.”

India, learning from the debacle at the Rose Bowl, rightly played five bowlers in the XI in the second NatWest series ODI in sunny Bristol. Fielding two spinners was an aggressive tactic but the skipper backed his instinct.

Earlier, Dravid had conjured a blinder — a 63-ball unbeaten 92 — in the late afternoon, signalling a welcome return to form. Dravid, easing into his shots with footwork and balance, timed the ball magnificently, found the gaps, and galloped along without many realising how quickly he was scoring.

Sachin Tendulkar — he missed what would have been a third successive ODI hundred at this venue by a run when wrongly adjudged caught behind off an Andrew Flintoff lifter — stroked majestically, whether using the pace of the ball, or dismissing it ruthlessly with power.

The opening stand of 113 in 19.3 overs, in which Sourav Ganguly (39), apart from a couple of blistering hits, wisely played second fiddle, laid a solid platform. Yuvraj Singh’s elevation to No. 3, an impulsive decision by Dravid after India’s solid start on a flat surface, was a ploy that succeeded with the left-hander making a breezy 49.

England blundered by omitting left-arm spinner Monty Panesar. His replacement Chris Tremlett, who bowls a predictable length in this format, went for runs. The attack, without a left-arm paceman as well, was clearly one dimensional.

Piyush Chawla, who got the prize wicket of Kevin Pietersen, is greeted by his team-mates.-

Flintoff bowled with passion, heart and craft to return a five-for in only his second comeback game, but the Indian batsmen prospered.

Back to Chawla. The budding leg-spinner certainly does not suffer from stage fright, nor does he get daunted by reputations.

Kevin Pietersen was getting into his groove when he was done in by a superbly flighted ball from Chawla; the batsman played for the turn but found the ball going through straight. “It was great getting KP, a memorable moment,” Chawla reflected on the dismissal.

“He is bowling in conditions that do not suit his bowling. It was cold in Belfast and he bowled so well against South Africa. Here, the boundaries were small and there was little in the pitch. I like his attitude. He’s got aggression,” said Dravid.

Andrew Flintoff, in just his second comeback game, took five for 56.-

Chawla soon castled Paul Collingwood with a googly to peg England back. “We had to keep taking wickets. There was depth in this English line-up,” said Dravid.

The under-rated Powar bowled quite beautifully, varying his trajectory, the extent of his spin, and his length. He denied runs, bowled to his field, and scalped Flintoff with a piece of trickery. The leg spin-off spin combination worked.

Munaf Patel was expensive in his comeback game but picked up three wickets; there were moments when he seamed the ball, extracted bounce and worked up pace but could not put it all together consistently enough.

England required one big innings, a hundred plus score, but the highest score of the night was Ian Bell’s rather laborious 64. The exciting Dimitri Mascarenhas, however, made a whirlwind half-century towards the end, clearing the ropes with ridiculous ease. India, fielding sloppily, almost lost the plot.

There are lessons to be learnt from the victory — bowling at the Death and fielding under pressure among them.

THE SCORES

NatWest Series, Second ODI, Bristol, August 24, 2007. India won by nine runs.

India: S. Ganguly c Collingwood b Flintoff 39; S. Tendulkar c Prior b Flintoff 99; Yuvraj Singh c Collingwood b Broad 49; R. Dravid (not out) 92; M. Dhoni c Tremlett b Anderson 21; D. Karthik lbw b Flintoff 1; A. Agarkar c Prior b Flin toff 1; R. Powar c Prior b Flintoff 1; P. Chawla (not out) 1; Extras (lb-8, w-9, nb-8) 25. Total (for seven wkts., in 50 overs) 329.

Fall of wickets: 1-113, 2-180, 3-243, 4-302, 5-310, 6-324, 7-326.

England bowling: Broad 9-0-54-1; Anderson 10-1-56-1; Flintoff 10-0-56-5; Tremlett 9-0-73-0; Mascarenhas 4-0-31-0; Collingwood 4-0-24-0; Bopara 4-0-27-0.

England: A. Cook c Dhoni b Patel 36; M. Prior c Dravid b Patel 33; I. Bell c Patel b Chawla 64; K. Pietersen b Chawla 25; P. Collingwood b Chawla 27; A. Flintoff c Agarkar b Powar 9; R. Bopara lbw b Patel 17; A. Mascarenhas c Agarkar b R. P. Singh 52; S. Broad (not out) 29; C. Tremlett (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-15, nb-6) 28. Total (for eight wkts., in 50 overs) 320.

Fall of wickets: 1-76, 2-76, 3-134, 4-176, 5-185, 6-220, 7-240, 8-299.

India bowling: Agarkar 9-1-67-0; R. P. Singh 10-0-56-1; Patel 8-0-70-3; Ganguly 3-0-17-0; Chawla 10-0-60-3; Powar 10-0-43-1.