Overs curtailed, but agony for India not over

Defeat and dismay would have been the last thing on the phlegmatic Dhoni's mind when India batted well to score at 8.13 runs per over. But then England bettered that run-rate in a 23-over match. Over to K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

The sky was forever lost in a grey shroud and the forecast promised more rain. It was not the ideal situation for a cricket match and the second One-Day International of the NatWest Series between India and England at Southampton's Rose Bowl seemed set to continue the damp streak that had curtailed the first game at Chester-le-Street.

Indian fans were already nursing a depressive air especially after a toe-injury ruled out Sachin Tendulkar for the rest of the series. The rain made it worse for them. A wet Tuesday seemed all set to extend the agony but the fickle nature of the English weather was revealed in all its glory when the drizzle stopped and a shortened game of 23 overs per side became possible.

Even a glorious sunset became visible but frustratingly for the Indians — both the players and fans — the atmospherics and its change for the better hardly offered any moments for cheer and the ‘Men in Blue' crashed to yet another defeat, while England continued to have a measure of the visitor, be it in Tests, Twenty20 or ODIs.

England's Alastair Cook, whose elevation as the team's ODI captain was greeted with cynicism from the likes of Michael Atherton, struck an unbeaten 80 (63b, 5x4, 1x6) to power the host to a seven-wicket victory and gain a 1-0 lead in the series. England scored 188 for three in 22.1 overs in reply to India's 187 for eight in 23 overs.

To make it even more delicious for a batsman stereotyped as dour and defensive, Cook's batting exploits came in a match that had a Twenty20 flavour. “I am happy with my form but still there is lots to improve. Right now as an ODI team we are placed fifth and to become number one demands a bloody lot of hard work,” the England skipper said.

Cook admitted to having a stray thought of skipping the match as its Twenty20 flavour was not something that he relishes. However he shed his reservations and took centre-stage while in keeping with its horses-for-courses policy, England rested Jonathan Trott. India on the other hand had no such liberties after having lost eight players due to injuries through the tour. M. S. Dhoni went to the other extreme of fielding Manoj Tiwary, who had just joined the team after a long-haul flight from India. “These difficulties make life interesting,” Dhoni said when asked about how a jet-lagged player made the cut.

Defeat and dismay would have been the last thing on the phlegmatic Dhoni's mind when India batted well to score at 8.13 runs per over. “I thought 187 was a very good total,” Dhoni said. Parthiv Patel's cameo scattered Tim Bresnan's first two overs all over the park. Ajinkya Rahane (54, 47b, 5x4, 1x6) continued to excel and is fast emerging as the find of the tour. And Rahul Dravid playing his last set of ODIs, showed that he still lives in the ‘here and now' and remained the eager beaver.

The three batsmen combined well atop the order to help India gallop away before Graeme Swann struck in the middle-phase and like it happened at Chester-le-Street, it was left to Suresh Raina (40, 19b, 3x4, 3x6) to buck up the scoring rate. Facing a limited scrutiny of short-pitched balls, Raina hit through the line and Cook admitted: “We are finding it difficult to bowl to Raina in the death.”

England, rich with an extra-dash of self-belief, prospered in the beginning of the chase with Craig Kieswetter (46, 25b, 4x4, 3x6) cutting loose against the Indian attack. Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, R. Ashwin and Munaf Patel are not one-dimensional bowlers and all of them have their share of variations but against Kieswetter's blazing blade, they fell short and Dhoni regretted the absence of a genuine fifth bowler to plug the leak. “The outfield was wet and our bowlers could not get swing and Ashwin too went for runs. When we had Yuvraj Singh we could manoeuvre the fifth bowling slot around,” Dhoni said.

Kieswetter's contribution was amplified by Man of the Match Cook, who showed that at times he too can wield the long handle. Cook also found active allies in Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara and the runs just kept coming to usher in a facile triumph. “They scored 100 runs in 10 overs and they did not need to take any more risks in the next 13 overs. Our bowlers have to step up,” Dhoni said.

THE SCORES

India:Parthiv Patel c Kieswetter b Anderson 28, A. Rahane c & b Swann 54, R. Dravid c Anderson b Swann 32, V. Kohli c Bell b Swann 9, S. Raina c Stokes b Bresnan 40, M. S. Dhoni c Bell b Bresnan 6, M. Tiwary c Bell b Bresnan 11, R. Ashwin (run out) 1, Praveen Kumar (not out) 0. Extras (lb-2, w-4): 6. Total (for eight wkts., in 23 overs): 187.

Fall of wickets:1-30, 2-109, 3-125, 4-143, 5-164, 6-182, 7-186, 8-187.

England bowling:Bresnan 4-0-43-3, Anderson 3-0-11-1, Broad 3-0-25-0, Dernbach 5-0-49-0, Bopara 2-0-13-0, Swann 5-0-33-3, Samit 1-0-11-0.

England:A. Cook (not out) 80, C. Kieswetter lbw b Vinay 46, I. Bell c Kohli b Ashwin 25, R. Bopara c Kohli b Ashwin 24, S. Patel (not out) 9. Extras (lb-2, w-2): 4. Total (for three wkts., in 22.1 overs): 188.

Fall of wickets:1-67, 2-105, 3-165.

India bowling:Praveen 4-0-41-0, Vinay 4.1-0-33-1, Ashwin 5-0-42-2, Munaf 5-0-35-0, Kohli 3-0-22-0, Raina 1-0-13-0.