Paucity of runs

MAN OF THE MATCH MUNAF PATEL snares Kevin Pietersen, a big wicket-PHOTO: R.V. MOORTHY

On a new wicket, the Indian bowlers held sway. England caused a flutter of sorts late in the match, but it was too little, too late. VIJAY LOKAPALLY reports.

India coach Greg Chappell sounded confident. In his opinion, it was only a matter of time before trusted performers like Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh struck form. "We are involved in a well-thought development plan and I am in no hurry to make conclusions," he said as India prepared to take on England in its first match of the Champions Trophy. Sehwag failed, but Yuvraj warmed up with a plucky show. Pathan and Munaf Patel stood out for their excellent bowling.

The contest never rose above mediocrity for many reasons. It was one of the most disappointing displays by England and it was hardly surprising that it hit a new low by compiling a mere 125. It was England's lowest ever total against India in one-day internationals and was certainly poorly-timed.

There was a specific role for Irfan Pathan and he performed with aplomb, making the ball talk and working up a tidy pace. This was the Pathan of old when he could force the batsmen on the backfoot with his crafty seam and swing.

The match also belonged to Munaf Patel, the unassuming fast bowler, who understands his limitations and sticks to the basics to make an impact on the opposition. "I just concentrated on line and length," said the modest Patel, adjudged `Man of the Match' for his incisive burst.

The new track was two-paced, prompting skipper Rahul Dravid to give his bowlers the first feel of it. And they performed to expectations, skittling out England. Barring Ajit Agarkar, the rest had a fruitful outing.

Irfan Pathan nails an equally big one, Andy Flintoff.-PHOTO: AP

Pathan grew in confidence once he began with a maiden over. The ball swung enough to leave the batsmen groping, but it was Patel who made the first dent. He was the outstanding bowler of the day and it sent encouraging signals to the team management for future matches.

"It is my first `Man of the Match' award, and it feels very good. It was a good pitch to bowl on, and Irfan too bowled very well. We bowled well as a pair, and got the desired results," Patel said, analysing his bowling. "It is always better when you bowl fast, but with control over line and length. I was trying to bowl quick, but my focus was to be disciplined too. I am working hard, trying to bowl well, and I am hopeful that I will continue to deliver the goods."

England never recovered from the early blows. India capitalised on the openings created by Pathan and Patel and the passage to victory became quite easy with the dismissal of Kevin Pietersen. Andrew Flintoff, wanting to take the fight to the India camp, walked out at number three. He fell cheaply, but it was Pietersen's wicket that put England on the defensive and the team just caved in.

India's reply was based mainly on Sachin Tendulkar's determined batting even as he lost partners at the other end. Poor shot selection showed the Indian top order in poor light and the batsmen also contrived to create artificial excitement in the closing stages by losing a couple of quick wickets. But then a victory was never in doubt.

Dravid, on the convincing victory, observed, "It was important to get off to a winning start. There were a lot of positives from the game, especially the bowling and the fielding, and we will learn lessons from areas where we could have done better. We can take a lot of confidence from the way we performed with the ball and in the field, and with the way we started off with the bat."

England skipper Andrew Flintoff summed it up nicely. "It was the first game of the tournament, and we started badly both with bat and ball." He also gave credit to the Indian bowlers. "Both Irfan and Patel bowled fine opening spells. They exploited the wicket and bowled in good areas, making it hard for the batsmen. They kept asking questions all the time, they bowled well and we were not up to it on the day," said Flintoff.

It was India's day at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium as firecrackers lit up the sky following the home team's win. Going by Chappell's faith in his team, it was a small, but significant step towards the goal of winning the Champions Trophy.

* * * The Scores

ICC Champions Trophy, Group A, India vs England, Jaipur, October 15, 2006. India won by four wickets.

England: A. Strauss c Dravid b Pathan 10; I. Bell lbw b Patel 4; A. Flintoff lbw b Pathan 0; M. Yardy lbw b Patel 4; K. Pietersen c Tendulkar b Patel 27; P. Collingwood c Dhoni b Powar 38; J. Dalrymple c Dravid b Powar 24; C. Read c Pathan b Harbhajan 2; S. Mahmood c Harbhajan b Powar 8; S. Harmison (not out) 2; J. Anderson (run out) 1; Extras (lb-2, w-2, nb-1) 5. Total (in 37 overs) 125.

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-11, 3-17, 4-27, 5-55, 6-104, 7-107, 8-119, 9-124.

India bowling: Pathan 8-3-20-2; Patel 8-2-18-3; Agarkar 5-0-34-0; Harbhajan 8-0-27-1; Powar 8-1-24-3.

India: V. Sehwag c Strauss b Harmison 9; S. Tendulkar lbw b Harmison 35; I. Pathan c Pietersen b Anderson 19; R. Dravid c Strauss b Anderson 4; Yuvraj (not out) 27; M. Dhoni c Collingwood b Dalrymple 7; S. Raina b Dalrymple 0; Harbhajan (not out) 6; Extras (lb-7, w-11, nb-1) 19. Total (for six wickets in 29.3 overs) 126.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-68, 3-72, 4-98, 5-119, 6-119.

England bowling: Anderson 7-1-40-2; Harmison 6-0-34-2; Mahmood 8.3-0-30-0; Yardy 4-0-10-0; Dalrymple 4-0-5-2.