England learn that life in India is far from easy

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The Independent Online

If there was any tiny doubt about how difficult it is to win in India it might just have been erased here in Hyderabad yesterday. If there existed any remote suspicion that England were about to sweep all before them, that, too, was disdainfully removed.

It was instead a reprise of the old story. India defeated England by 126 runs in the first of five matches in the one-day series. Of the last 14 matches between the sides in this country, England have won one.

So severe and unexpected was this reversal that the tourists will do well to regroup for the second match in Delhi on Monday. This was not, hardly surprisingly, the view of England's captain, Alastair Cook (right).

"We were outplayed in all three departments," he said. "We gave them 30 or 40 runs too many but the good things about the games coming close together as they do is that we can react quickly. We're disappointed but it's about the character we show next and we're still a close unit."

Although England were not suckered into thinking that India were about to roll over and have their tummies tickled after their experiences in the summer, Cook had pronounced that his men were ready for the challenge.

The margin of defeat, England's second largest to India, would suggest that they were as ill-equipped and unready as Butch and Sundance dashing out to meet the Bolivian army. All seemed to be going well for England, despite some dozy work in the outfield, as India stuttered their way to 150 for 4 after 35 overs.

Afterwards, it could not have gone worse. In the last 15 overs, India exactly doubled their score and 300 on a slow pitch was not a realistic target. The match hinged almost entirely on a commanding innings from India's captain, MS Dhoni.

Dhoni, in at 123 for 4 with the chips down, was so unruffled that he might have conducted proceedings wearing a dinner jacket. His placement was precise, he ran his singles thunderously which was matched by the ferocity of his boundaries. Eschewing all pretence, as ever, at replicating an orthodox method, he drilled his boundaries, 10 fours and a six, in his unbeaten 87 from 70 balls.

For a while it looked as if Cook would reply in kind. Unfortunately, he lost Craig Kieswetter, edging to the keeper, and Kevin Pietersen, running a risky single. When Cook and Jonathan Trott were dismissed in quick fashion, that was that.