India-England nail-biting thriller ends in a tie
Bangalore: Cricket was the ultimate winner in one of the most gruesome ODI battles ever fought as England tied the nail biting encounter against India.
India staged a brilliant comeback after being almost taken out of the game by Andrew Strauss, aptly supported by Ian Bell with Zaheer Khan digging in deep for an extraordinary spell that saved the game for the home team.
It was a day ruled by batsmen with over 600 runs being scored but what would trouble Indian skipper Dhoni the most was the lack of sting in the bowling in two consecutive games that had tense moments despite the batsmen firing from all ends.
Tendulkar celebrated playing in a World Cup match on home soil after a gap of fifteen years with his 98th international century that was elegant, fast and most importantly, sublime. It was his fifth century in a World Cup, the most by any batsman in the history of the sport.
The fielding was ordinary from both the sides but the home team was seen more wanting in that department, something to be worked upon in the coming week. England lost their way once their captain departed, making a mess of the good efforts with the bat while the Indians kept their nerve to put them on top of their group despite the tied game.
Just when things looked all set for England, they called for the batting powerplay and India was given a window of opportunity as pacer Zaheer claimed Ian Bell (69) to bring a new twist to the tale. The very next delivery changed the equations drastically as Andrew Strauss (158) was out plumb in front of the wickets.
Zaheer was spitting fire in Bangalore as he claimed his third quick wicket in the form of Paul Collingwood (1), who was clean bowled with an angling delivery. Harbhajan Singh spun into action as soon as India sniffed victory, claiming Matt Prior (4) to expose the English tail with the run-rate climbing steeply.
The wickets came at a time when a miracle breakthrough was required from the home team and the introduction of the speed mainstay of the squad proved to be the right decision for Dhoni.
Andrew Strauss had played a captain’s innings as he held fort from one end, slamming a fantastic 158 to provide some stability to the English outfit.
The tactics of rotating the strike freely paid rich dividends to the visitors as all the batsmen scoring briskly, helping the total go past the 200-run mark in lesser balls. The decision making did not give any help to the Indian cause either as Ian Bell slammed a fifty after being given not out to a Yuvraj delivery.
The first breakthrough came via a sensational caught and bowled by Munaf Patel to get rid of Kevin Pietersen (31). It was a superb reflex catch on a rebound in the tenth over that finally got a new pair of English feet on the crease.
In the Indian innings, Sachin Tendulkar’s spectacular century had set the tone for a formidable 338 all out against England despite the team not managing to complete playing out the entire 50 overs.
It was a clinical and effective display of the willow’s prowess by Dhoni’s men as Sachin (120), Gambhir (51) and Yuvraj (58) made their mark at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, giving enough reasons to the Indian fans to cheer their throats hoarse.
England did manage to stop a complete carnage with two wickets in two balls (Yuvraj and Dhoni) towards the death. Soon after, Virat Kohli (8) and Yusuf Pathan (14) fell while trying to up the ante. Harbhajan was out plumb in front of the wicket for a duck and this sudden array of wickets falling did give a breather for the visitors, not letting the target go beyond the psychological barrier of 350 runs.
Sehwag (35) had started off the proceedings against England in his signature style – sending the ball past the boundary on the first delivery itself. The ball flew just past the fingers of the slip fielder and the early nerves were calmed.
Giving Sehwag company at the other end was Sachin, who saw the Delhi blaster tease the English side, lobbing three possible catches in the first over that could not be taken. However, the ball found the bat’s edge more often than not for Viru, ending his campaign with the bat for the day.
The tied result places India on the top but going into the later stages with a similar bowling and fielding display would surely end India’s chances of winning the trophy. India now face Ireland on Sunday, 6th March.