The toss dilemma

Under a heavy cloud cover at Headingley, Paul Collingwood did what most captains would do in such conditions at a venue considered a paradise for seam and swing bowlers. He chose to put the opposition in. His counterpart Rahul Dravid had done the same thing at Edgbaston. In theory, both Dravid and Collingwood were right, but both finished on the losing side. Over to S. Dinakar.

How important is the toss to the outcome of a game? The spin of the coin does not necessarily win the game for a side. It can, however, if the captain gets it right, put the team on the track to victory.

At Edgbaston, Rahul Dravid opted to field under what was more than a partial cloud cover. But then, his new ball bowlers disappointed, bowling the wrong length and failing to strike. The fielders too failed to back the bowlers. England won.

In the fifth ODI at Headingley, under a heavy cloud cover, Paul Collingwood did what most captains would do in such conditions at a venue considered a paradise for seam and swing bowlers. He chose to put the opposition in.

In theory, both Dravid and Collingwood were right, but both finished on the losing side. This toss can be a beast.

There was nothing in the conditions at Headingley for the pacemen in the first half, neither in the air nor off the surface, and the England fielders were sent on a leather hunt.

Then, when India bowled, the pitch, slightly spiced up by the rain, offered appreciable seam movement.

It was the England batsmen who were caught out.

India, eventually, won the game by 38 runs after the Duckworth and Lewis method was employed. England’s target was revised from 325 to 311 in 45 overs after a rain interruption. The host still lead 3-2 with two matches remaining.

The match at Leeds was a pressure game with India on the brink. Dravid’s men responded well to the challenge. There were some significant contributions in a team effort.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a perfect afternoon behind the stumps, effecting six dismissals and equalling the ODI record for a ’keeper in an innings. His stumping to dismiss Matthew Prior off Sourav Ganguly was quick stuff. Then he dived to pouch Kevin Pietersen when the key batsman snicked Zaheer Khan. His best was yet to come. Ian Bell attempted to glide Ganguly, edged, and Dhoni, standing up, took a fantastic catch, the ball easing into his gloves.

Man of the Match Sourav Ganguly, playing his 300th ODI, made a battling 59, laying a solid platform for India with a 116-run opening stand in the company of a free-stroking Sachin Tendulkar. Then when Mathew Prior and the in-form Ian Bell were cutting loose, adding 90 in a hurry, Ganguly provided the breakthrough having Prior stumped. Then, he removed Bell, again combining with an inspired Dhoni.

A crafty bowler, Ganguly operated stump to stump, moving the odd ball away. His accuracy and control pegged England back. This man remains a feisty cricketer.

Both Zaheer and Ajit Agarkar, let down by some ordinary slip catching, achieved some movement off the pitch even if the latter was a touch expensive.

However, Agarkar struck both at the beginning and the end.

Off-spinner Ramesh Powar once again bowled beautifully, achieving the dip in flight, getting the ball to spin in and also drift away. Powar certainly does not lack skill.

Paul Collingwood made a typically brave unbeaten 91, but there was little hope for England when the contest finally concluded. The captain’s strokes through and over mid-wicket were well struck.

The English attack was depleted with Andrew Flintoff, someone with air speed and the ability to extract bounce on most surfaces, unable to play due to the return of his dreaded ankle injury; he has already undergone three surgeries on his ankle.

And then, England committed a tactical blunder by breaking up what has been a successful new ball combination in the series. The selection of swing bowler Jon Lewis — the selectors and the team-management thought ‘horses for courses’ here — meant it was Lewis and not Stuart Broad who partnered Anderson.

The ploy hurt the host. Lewis, who lacks pace, was taken apart by Tendulkar. And Broad could not adjust to the one-change role. To make matters worse, seamer Ravi Bopara dislocated his thumb while attempting a catch off his own bowling.

Tendulkar, displaying a freedom of mind rarely seen from him in recent times, delighted, as did Yuvaraj, promoted to the No. 4 slot. The Indians showed some out-of-the-box thinking as well recalling Gautam Gambhir to the XI and switching back to the four-bowler theory. Gambhir made a fluent half-century at No. 3.There were some big blows towards the end from Dhoni and Dravid, with the skipper striking Broad over point for an incredible six.

THE SCORES

Headingley, September 2. India won by 38 runs (D/L Method).

India: S. Ganguly c Cook b Panesar 59; S. Tendulkar c Prior b Lewis 71; G. Gambhir c (sub) b Broad 51; Yuvraj c Anderson b Collingwood 72; M. Dhoni c Prior b Anderson 24; R. Dravid (run out) 24; K. Karthik (not out) 2; Zaheer Khan (not out) 4; Extras (b-3, lb-2, w-12) 17; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 324.

Fall of wickets: 1-116, 2-150, 3-244, 4-266, 5-311, 6-318.

England bowling: Anderson 10-1-60-1; Lewis 10-1-63-1; Broad 10-0-84-1; Collingwood 10-1-48-1; Panesar 8-0-50-1; Bopara 1.1-0-7-0; Pietersen 0.5-0-7-0.

England: A. Cook c Dhoni b Agarkar 4; M. Prior st. Dhoni b Ganguly 46; I. Bell c Dhoni b Ganguly 44; K. Pietersen c Dhoni b Zaheer 0; P. Collingwood (not out) 91; O. Shah c Dhoni b Powar 15; R. Bopara c & b Powar 11 ; S. Broad c Karthik b Chawla 1; J. Lewis c Dhoni b Agarkar 17; J. Anderson (not out) 1; Extras (b-1, lb-2, w-3, nb-6) 12; Total (for eight wkts. in 39 overs) 242.

Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-97, 3-102, 4-104, 5-145, 6-193, 7-196, 8-240.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 8-0-44-1; Agarkar 7-0-58-2; Ganguly 7-0-26-2; Chawla 5-0-31-1; Tendulkar 5-0-35-0; Powar 7-0-45-2.