India still in defeat mode

The Indian innings struggled with two tumbles — four wickets in 15 balls followed by the last five falling for just eight runs. In between Suresh Raina played a cameo, finding his peace in the shorter format against both pace and spin but his batting mates let him down and that proved costly against an England team high on self-belief while Dhoni later rued the lack of a specialist fifth bowler. From K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Despondency can take many hues on a cold Wednesday night. In the post-match press conference at Manchester's Old Trafford after England defeated India by six wickets in the lone NatWest Twenty20 game, a scribe asked Stuart Broad about whether he ever wondered about M. S. Dhoni's men winning an international game in the current tour.

A flabbergasted England skipper smiled and then mouthed platitudes of how the Indian team is still good while his men have played far superior cricket. The game itself was not a full-fledged journey into the black-hole of depression as there were moments of cheer for the fans who lent their voice to the strains of ‘Chak de India' between overs.

India's debutant Ajinkya Rahane played with flourish, clearing the in-field and also displaying a deft hand while goading the ball behind the wicket to lend a touch of poetry at a venue with its Sir Neville Cardus Suite in honour of the iconic wordsmith. The back-story was also not a full litany of woe. India may have sulked with defeat in the Tests but the ‘Men in Blue' had won their subsequent warm-up fixtures against Sussex, Kent and Leicestershire.

So much for glad tidings and eternal hope until the spectre of defeat returned to haunt the Indians again! Sourav Ganguly had recently said how in the 1990s, India would travel abroad and it was always a tale of ‘go and lose.' That sad template was repeated as England scored 169 for four in 19.3 overs while chasing India's 165 from 19.4 overs.

Praveen Kumar trapped Alex Hales in the first over but England motored on with Kevin Pietersen (33), ever a positive influence at the crease, striding forward, moving across and doing everything to distract the bowlers from their radars. A scampering Parthiv Patel's butter-fingers also aided Pietersen's initial tempo while Craig Kieswetter fell to Munaf Patel.

Pietersen too succumbed to his own complacency, dragging his feet out with Virat Kohli drifting down the leg-side for Dhoni to whip off the bails. At 61 for three, England just shrugged the early departures and with its batting might running deep, found its second wind through Eoin Morgan (49, 27b, 7x4, 1x6) and Ravi Bopara's 73-run fourth-wicket alliance.

The cut-loose moment occurred when Morgan slammed Rohit Sharma for two fours and a six and though the player of Irish extraction, failed to squirt Munaf past a diving Rohit Sharma at point, India met its match in ironically two players of Indian origin — Bopara and Samit Patel! Talk about the global village and its multi-cultural shades!

Munaf bowled a tight penultimate over, giving away just three runs and 10 were required from the last six deliveries. R. Vinay Kumar started with a wide, followed it with four byes and then Samit crouched low to steer one past third-man and stood tall to strike the next over covers.

The game was over and the England dug-out was ecstatic. Broad had said ahead of the clash that the game would be good because it pitted his team, the reigning Twenty20 champion against World Cup winner India and his delight after putting it past the visitors, was understandable.

The evening began with enough joy for the Indians with Rahane batting with panache. Parthiv did his usual hustling bit and vanished but Rahane almost converted Broad's apprehensions into reality. Prior to the tussle, Broad admitted that his think-tank was not clued into a few fresh Indian players and Rahane did dish out the surprise-and-shock factor.

Rahane (61, 39b, 8x4) pulled the short-pitched delivery, drove with ease, punched with alacrity and also rocked back to guide the spinners to the third-man picket. His first run was a mix of the ungainly leading edge and a first-timer's angst but he soon settled down to a nicety. Rahane's enthusiasm was mirrored by another man, who was making his international Twenty20 debut after seeing 38 summers.

Rahul Dravid, playing his first and last Twenty20 for India, remained the eager beaver in a second-wicket partnership worth 65 runs and he displayed muscle while clouting Samit Patel for three sixes. Dravid and Rahane fell while trying to increment the runs and that led to a meltdown with the rest caving in meekly while `Man of the Match' seamer Jade Dernbach struck repeatedly.

The Indian innings struggled with two tumbles — four wickets in 15 balls followed by the last five falling for just eight runs. In between Suresh Raina played a cameo, finding his peace in the shorter format against both pace and spin but his batting mates let him down and that proved costly against an England team high on self-belief while Dhoni later rued the lack of a specialist fifth bowler.

THE SCORES

India: Parthiv Patel c Broad b Dernbach 10, A. Rahane c Dernbach b Broad 61, R. Dravid c Morgan b Bopara 31, V. Kohli c Kieswetter b Broad 4, R. Sharma st. Kieswetter b Swann 1, S. Raina c Broad b Bresnan 33, M. S. Dhoni c Hales b Dernbach 8, R. Ashwin (run out) 4, Praveen Kumar b Dernbach 1, Vinay Kumar (not out) 2, Munaf c Kieswetter b Dernbach 0. Extras (lb-7, w-3) 10. Total (all out in 19.4 overs): 165.

Fall of wickets: 1-39, 2-104, 3-106, 4-108, 5-117, 6-158, 7-162, 8-162, 9-165.

England bowling: Bresnan 4-0-33-1, Dernbach 3.4-0-22-4, Broad 4-0-37-2, Samit Patel 3-0-34-0, Swann 4-0-28-1, Bopara 1-0-4-1.

England: A. Hales lbw b Praveen 0, C. Kieswetter c Raina b Munaf 18, K. Pietersen st. Dhoni b Kohli 33, E. Morgan c Sharma b Munaf 49, R. Bopara (not out) 31, Samit Patel (not out) 25. Extras (lb-7, w-6): 13. Total (for four wkts., in 19.3 overs): 169.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-58, 3-61, 4-134.

India bowling: Praveen 4-0-27-1, Vinay 3.3-0-35-0, Munaf 4-0-25-2, Ashwin 4-0-37-0, Kohli 3-0-22-1, Sharma 1-0-16-0.