Now, rain the spoiler

Signs of a revival were visible at rain-swept Chester-le-Street in Durham and the next few games would highlight whether they were a mirage or the pathway to redemption. K. C. Vijaya Kumar reports.

A group of fans formed a semi-circle around the Indian team bus and bellowed their support. In a tour that has almost lived up to Murphy's Law — ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong', India's performance at the Durham International Cricket Stadium on a wet Saturday, finally lent cheer to its teeming fans.

It is another matter that the promise of belated dominance against England never bore fruition due to the rain that again drifted in from across the hills and drenched M.S. Dhoni's hopes of finally turning it around against England.

The damp weather has been a haunting presence whenever the Men in Blue were sighted in this picturesque part of northern England much like the alleged ghosts known to flit across the adjacent Lumley Castle, a fear once raised by the burly Shane Watson!

In 2002 too, the clouds gathered ominously and ruined India's hopes and the scorer pointed it out while announcing at 5.30 p.m. local time that the current game was abandoned. Truly a pity because at that stage, England on 27 for two from 7.2 overs, had to do the hard yards while pursuing India's 274 for seven in 50 overs. “You cannot control the weather,” was Alastair Cook's cryptic remark but the England skipper would know that the chase was tight.

In a tour made worse by losses in the Tests and the lone Twenty20, India had briefly drawn heart from victories against counties but a win against England was badly required and that dream began to slowly take shape once Praveen Kumar scalped Cook and Craig Kieswetter.

“Praveen is a quality performer. He bowls the right length and swings it,” Cook said.

The seamer hardly gave width and Cook tried to break free with the cut and perished. Kieswetter found one darting back into his pads and though Jonathan Trott pinged a few fours, the Indians were chirpy on the field until they were forced to run back to the dressing room following the downpour. “You never know and 275 was gettable,” Cook said later but Dhoni cannot be blamed if he secretly foresaw a victory.

Initially the match started in a manner that would have pleased Cook. He won the toss and elected to field. There was dampness in the air. James Anderson was back as the spearhead. All factors hung heavily against India but Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane obviously did not agree with the forecast of gloom and doom. The openers played aggressively and England's pace battery lost its way during the opening partnership worth 82 runs. “They gave an ideal start and took the pressure away,” Dhoni remarked.

Parthiv (95, 107b, 12x4) stormed his way against the bouncers. Flailing, bobbing and weaving were no options for him. He just stood on his toes, pivoted his waist and pulled and hooked. Cook then thought that the miscued hit down fine-leg's throat would be the immediate result but Parthiv just pummelled the on-side.

Soft hands were also on display while he steered past third-man and the southpaw guided the 103-run third-wicket partnership with Virat Kohli. Prior to Kohli's arrival, Rahul Dravid left nodding his head after a referral against him for a caught behind was upheld though the evidence was inconclusive.

Parthiv seemed set for a hundred but he wafted against Anderson and walked away to rousing applause. Kohli then lost his head against spinner Samit Patel and India, having missed out on an injured Sachin Tendulkar (nursing an inflamed toe), suffered another blow as Rohit Sharma was struck on his right hand by a rising delivery from Stuart Broad.

Suresh Raina and Dhoni then added some runs and India posted a challenging total but the weather gods were not in a mood to relent and the team left for its next stop — Southampton, hoping for a path-breaking victory. “I am trying to field the best possible eleven from the available resources. I don't think too much about injuries because they keep happening in sport. We lost Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and others but it is also an opportunity for the younger players to grab their chances,” Dhoni said while Kohli had earlier quipped, “Teams go through these phases.”

The squad has kept the faith egged on by a loyal fan base spread across the United Kingdom.

Yet a victory is urgently needed so that the players can keep those stray thoughts, hovering around the final departure following the last match in Cardiff on September 16, at bay. Signs of a revival were visible at rain-swept Chester-le-Street in Durham and the next few games would highlight whether they were a mirage or the pathway to redemption.

THE SCORES

India: Parthiv Patel c Kieswetter b Anderson 95, A. Rahane c Samit b Broad 40, R. Dravid c Kieswetter b Broad 2, V. Kohli b Samit 55, R. Sharma (retd. hurt) 0, S. Raina c Cook b Dernbach 38, Dhoni c Kieswetter b Bresnan 33, Praveen Kumar (not out) 2, R. Ashwin b Bresnan 0, Vinay Kumar (not out) 1. Extras (lb-5, w-3): 8. Total (for seven wkts., in 50 overs): 274. .

Fall of wickets: 1-82, 2-87, 3-190, 4-206, 5-266, 6-272, 7-272.

England bowling: Anderson 9-0-41-1, Bresnan 10-0-54-2, Broad 10-0-56-2, Dernbach 9-0-62-1, Samit 10-0-42-1, Trott 2-0-14-0.

England: A. Cook b Praveen 4, C. Kieswetter lbw b Praveen 6, J. Trott (not out) 14, I. Bell (not out) 2. Extras (lb-1): 1. Total (for two wkts., in 7.2 overs): 27.

Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-21.

India bowling: Praveen 4-1-11-2, Vinay 3.2-1-15-0.