Cricket: England fall to Jadeja's triple strike

Morale of Stewart's men hits all-time low with a performance of stupefying staleness
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The Independent Online
SKIRMISHES BETWEEN underdogs rarely make for pretty viewing and with recent one-day records as poor as India's and England's, yesterday's match in the Coca-Cola cup in Sharjah did not fail to live up to its pre- match billing of the bland leading the bland. That it ended with England failing once more to improve their status, shows just how stale their cricket has become since their last win against Sri Lanka in Australia.

With their opening game in the World Cup just a month away, morale must now be close to an all-time low and any further threats of not signing contracts will be a dangerous game of bluff for a professional outfit bowled out with 13 balls to spare.

These are desperate times for Alec Stewart's side and this was the sixth one-day international on the bounce that England have lost. Mind you, India's record - eight straight losses to Pakistan - was even worse, though this win, by 20 runs, and without their little deity Sachin Tendulkar, will have perked them up enough to start Sunday's rematch as favourites.

A total of 222 for 5, which is what India finished with after winning the toss and batting, does not represent a huge hurdle by current standards. Indeed on this pitch - the same one was used in England's game last Wednesday - and with a total 111 runs less than the one conceded to Pakistan, it should have required little more than regulation batting.

However, confidence levels are low and after losing the both openers in successive overs for 25, England got themselves in a pickle against India's spinners.

Getting no more than a smidgen of turn, the left-armer Suresh Joshi and Anil Kumble, kept England's middle order in check. Indeed, when Joshi dismissed Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe in the space of three balls, the former to a brilliant stumping by the substitute keeper Rahul Dravid, England were 83 for 4 and well behind the clock.

A revival in the form of Neil Fairbrother and Andrew Flintoff briefly threatened as Lancashire's master and apprentice added 72 runs in 14 overs. Flintoff, who put in a good performance with the ball this time, was just finding his range with the bat. In fact a massive six off Ganguly had just exited the stadium, when Venkatesh Prasad fooled him with a superbly concealed slower ball.

Fairbrother, fast running out of partners kept England in the hunt until a triple strike in the 47th over by Ajay Jadeja, deputising for the injured Mohammed Ahzaruddin, extinguished England's hopes. It was fine effort by Fairbrother and his 57 was a game knock under pressure.

Batting first, there were so few pyrotechnics from India's batsmen - they took 13 boundaries off England as compared to Pakistan's 30 - that it would be tempting to suggest that this was a game for purists. Tempting, except that such a notion totally defeats the point of one-day cricket as something that has been dumbed down to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Apparently, India have been laid low by a virus since arriving here and were below par as well as strength, which adds further insult to England's bruised pride.

As the virulence of the bug has yet to be ascertained, it was difficult to tell whether or not England put in an enhanced performance in the field. Mind you, it was at least 20F cooler than the previous day, when the mercury climbed to 110, so England should have been better. Even so, several catches still went to ground.

Until Azharuddin, unbeaten on 72 from 85 balls, found his touch in the second half of the innings, India batted pretty meekly. Visualisation is a tool much beloved of sports psychologists and their charges these days. Yet, if India's batsmen were using the technique yesterday, they appeared to have mental snapshot of a green stinker at Trent Bridge, rather than a slightly slow flattie in Sharjah. Mind you, England later batted with the apprehension they save for foreign fields which of course they were in.

Able to avoid the heavy barrage that greeted them against Pakistan, England's bowlers were allowed to operate under plan A - which is to bowl straight and hope the opposition dig themselves into a big hole. Most of the time, there is nothing wrong with that and it may yet work a treat on the early season pitches in England.

It certainly contained India who after Darren Gough's early removal of Sourav Ganguly, seemed intent on not losing wickets. Apart from Rahul Dravid, who chipped a simple return catch back to Hick and when the slog was on, they largely succeeded. It might not have made for pretty viewing, but when you are desperate to win as both these sides were, aesthetics come a very long second to victory.

SHARJAH SCOREBOARD

India won toss

INDIA

S Ramesh c Stewart b Gough 60

132 min, 97 balls, 5 fours

S C Ganguly c Stewart b Gough 7

37 min, 26 balls

R S Dravid c and b Hick1 6

48 min, 38 balls, 1 four

*M Azharuddin not out 74

127 min, 85 balls, 2 fours, 2 sixes

A D Jadeja c Thorpe b Flintoff 21

37 min, 27 balls, 1 four

R R Singh c Gough b Flintoff 11

11 min, 12 balls

N R Mongia not out 20

31 min, 22 balls, 2 fours

Extras (lb3, w3, nb7) 13

Total (for 5, 50 overs) 222

Fall: 1-24 (Ganguly), 2-61 (Dravid), 3-120 (Ramesh), 4-159 (Jadeja), 5-175 (Singh).

Did not bat: S B Joshi, A Kumble, J Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad.

Bowling: Gough 10-0-42-2 (nb5, w1) (5-0-17-1, 3-0-11-1, 2-0-14-0); Mullally 10-1-32-0 (nb1, w1) (6-1-16-0, 2-0-7-0, 2-0-9-0); Austin 8-0-45-0 (3-0- 13-0, 4-0-21-0, 1-0-11-0); Ealham 7-0-36-0 (2-0-9-0, 3-0-15-0, 2-0-12- 0); Croft 5-0-22-0 (nb1) (4-0-15-0, 1-0-7-0); Hick 5-0-18-1 (w1); Flintoff 5-0-24-2 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 64 min, 92 balls. 100: 114 min, 171 balls. 150: 160 min, 233 balls. 200: 204 min, 292 balls.

Score after 15 overs: 50 for 1.

Ramesh 50: 109 min, 82 balls, 4 fours. Azharuddin 50: 99 min, 67 balls, 2 fours.

ENGLAND

N V Knight b Prasad 11

32 min, 24 balls, 2 fours

*A J Stewart b Srinath 11

30 min, 20 balls, 2 fours

G A Hick st Dravid b Joshi 20

69 min, 49 balls, 4 fours

G P Thorpe c sub b Joshi 20

76 min, 43 balls, 1 four

N H Fairbrother c Dravid b Jadeja 57

123 min, 77 balls, 3 fours, 1 six

A Flintoff b Prasad 32

66 min, 40 balls, 2 fours, 1 six

M A Ealham b Prasad 7

17 min, 13 balls

R D B Croft c sub b Jadeja 9

26 min, 14 balls, 1 four

I D Austin run out 2

11 min, 3 balls

D Gough b Jadeja 2

3 min, 3 balls

A D Mullally not out 1

4 min, 2 balls

Extras (b3, lb8, w6, nb1) 18

Total (47.5 overs) 202

Fall: 1-25 (Stewart), 2-25 (Knight), 3-80 (Hick), 4-83 (Thorpe), 5-155 (Flintoff), 6-169 (Ealham), 7-196 (Croft), 8-197 (Fairbrother), 9-199 (Gough)

Bowling: Srinath 9.5-1-36-1 (nb1, w2) (6-1-17-1, 2-0-9-0, 1.5-0-9-0); Prasad 10-3-28-3 (6-2-19-1, 4-0-9-2); Kumble 9-0-31-0 (w1) (7-0-23-0, 1-0-4-0, 1-0-4-0); Joshi 10-1-36-2 (one spell); Singh 7-0-43-0 (5-0-27- 0, 1-0-4-0, 1-0-12-0); Ganguly 1-0-14-0 (w1); Jadeja 1-0-3-3 (w1).

Progress: 50: 67 min, 87 balls. 100: 125 min, 167 balls. 150: 171 min, 223 balls. 200: 230 mins, 284 balls.

Score after 15 overs: 52 for 2.

Fairbrother 50: 100 min, 66 balls, 3 fours, 1 six.

Umpires: K T Francis and D B Hair.

Compiled by Jo King

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