England's attempt to turn a one-sided one-day series into a contest melted into the Arabian Sea yesterday as India coasted to a four-wicket victory in the searing heat of the Nehru Stadium. India have an unbeatable 4-0 lead in the seven-match series and have consigned England's one-day side to another winter of failure.
The ease with which the winning runs were scored, Mahendra Singh Dhoni pushing a single to long-on, underlined the teams' difference in class and highlighted the problems England face in preparing for the 2007 World Cup. England have not won a meaningful series away from home for 14 years.
England will, legitimately, attribute the lacklustre performances to a horrendous injury list. Winning a one-day series in India is a difficult task with a full-strength team, so it is wrong to condemn an England side missing five influential players.
The disappointment for England is that most of those who benefited from the injuries failed to make the most of an opportunity.
England have been out-thought as well as outplayed in the series, and yesterday the tactics of Rahul Dravid played a significant role in India's victory. International captains have shown very little imagination in their employment of "power plays" - two five-over periods of play when fielding restrictions apply at the discretion of the fielding side - but Dravid's masterful use of them changed the match.
After winning a crucial toss and electing to stay out of the 42C heat and 90 per cent humidity for as long as possible, England had raced to 59 for 2 by the end of the 10th over. At this juncture, the fielding captain can choose to set his field back or use his power plays, when he has to have nine players within the 30 yard circle.
With Pietersen in full flow Dravid delayed a power play, hoping that his most feared opponent would lose patience and slog. But Pietersen resisted and batted responsibly, waiting for Dravid to bring the field up. The one crucial factor forgotten by Pietersen, who missed the third one-dayer in Goa through illness, was the weather and it quickly took its toll. By the time he reached 30 he already had the vacant look of someone struggling to cope with the heat. By 50 he was shot.
Dravid noticed and, seeing the energy dripping out of Pietersen, delayed still his power play. Then, when he could wait no longer, and when Pietersen was absolutely shattered, he brought in the field for the 29th over.
With England on 153 for 3, and a total of 300 a possibility, Pietersen's eyes lit up and he heaved at Harbhajan Singh's third ball. But all his energy had gone, and he lobbed a tired sweep softly into the hands of Yuvraj Singh at square-leg.
In the next over, Flintoff, feeling that he too needed to hit boundaries, was caught by Dravid at mid-wicket. In seven balls the momentum of the game had changed direction for good.
Geraint Jones, who is doubtful for Sunday's game in Guwahati after injuring his hamstring, played well for his 49 but 237 was never going challenge a team that has now won 15 consecutive games when batting second.
"Having played here before I know how hot it can get, and how hard it is to keep your concentration when you get to 60 or 70," Dravid said. "I delayed using the power plays it the hope Pietersen would get tired, because a player of his quality is hard to stop. I hoped he would make an error because of exhaustion, and he did. It could have gone the other way, and Pietersen and Flintoff could have whacked us everywhere, but the gamble worked."
Dravid top-scored with 65 in India's reply but there were also useful knocks of 46 and 48 from Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj. If it is any consolation to England, India do not seem to enjoy playing here either - Dravid had a chair and a parasol brought out for him during one drinks break.
Scoreboard from Cochin
England won the toss
A J Strauss lbw b Pathan 7 3 mins, 11 balls, 1 four
M J Prior c Dhoni b Sreesanth 14 27 mins, 13 balls, 2 fours
K P Pietersen c Yuvraj Singh b Harbhajan Singh 77 112 mins, 82 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes
P D Collingwood c & b Yuvraj Singh 36 70 mins, 48 balls, 4 fours
*A Flintoff c Dravid b Yuvraj Singh 12 33 mins, 21 balls, 1 four
V S Solanki b Powar 12 22 mins, 20 balls, 2 fours
ÝG O Jones run out (Agarkar-Pathan) 49 83 mins, 66 balls, 3 fours
I D Blackwell c & b Sehwag 6 28 mins, 13 balls
G J Batty lbw b Sehwag 6 9 mins, 6 balls
M J Hoggard run out (Agarkar TV replay) 7 21 mins, 12 balls
J M Anderson not out 1 5 mins, 2 balls
Extras (b 0, lb 11, w 1, nb 2, pens 0) 14
Total (216 mins, 48.4 overs) 237
Fall: 1-10 (Strauss); 2-27 (Prior); 3-117 (Collingwood); 4-153 (Pietersen); 5-155 (Flintoff); 6-172 (Solanki); 7-197 (Blackwell); 8-203 (Batty); 9-231 (Hoggard); 10-237 (Jones).
Bowling: Pathan 4.4-0-27-1 (nb1) (4-0-24-1 0.4-0-3-0), Sreesanth 5-0-29-1 (one spell), Agarkar 5-0-28-0 (4-0-23-0 1-0-5-0), Harbhajan Singh 10-1-36-1 (4-0-15-0 4-1-12-1 2-0-9-0), Powar 10-0-41-1 (4-0-19-0 6-0-22-1), Yuvraj Singh 8-1-34-2 (7-1-27-2 1-0-7-0), Sehwag 6-0-31-2 (nb1,w1) (2-0-15-0 4-0-16-2).
Progress: Power play 1: overs 1-10 59-2; PP2: overs 29-33 from 148-3 to 171-5; PP3: overs 34-38 189-6.
50 in 40 mins, 48 balls. 100 in 86 mins, 107 balls. 150 in 126 mins, 170 balls. 200 in 183 mins, 249 balls.
Pietersen's 50: 79 mins, 54 balls, 4 fours, 1 six.
V Sehwag c Solanki b Blackwell 26 47 mins, 33 balls, 4 fours
*R S Dravid c Hoggard b Flintoff 65 109 mins, 73 balls, 9 fours
I K Pathan st Prior b Blackwell 46 79 mins, 56 balls, 6 fours, 1 six
M Kaif c Anderson b Flintoff 5 23 mins, 13 balls
Yuvraj Singh c Prior b Anderson 48 76 mins, 55 balls, 6 fours
S K Raina c Blackwell b Anderson 21 67 mins, 38 balls
+M S Dhoni not out 10 22 mins, 13 balls, 1 four
R R Powar not out 2 19 mins, 10 balls
Extras (b 0, lb 1, w 7, nb 7, pens 0) 15
Total (6 wkts, 227 mins, 47.2 overs) 238
Fall: 1-54 (Sehwag), 2-130 (Dravid), 3-152 (Pathan), 4-152 (Kaif), 5-224 (Raina), 6-224 (Yuvraj Singh).
Did not bat: A B Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth.
Bowling: Anderson 10-1-53-2 (5-0-19-0 2-0-15-0 1-0-13-0 2-1-6-2), Hoggard 9-0-59-0 (nb3,w4) (3-0-26-0 2-0-13-0 4-0-20-0), Flintoff 8-0-33-2 (nb3,w1) (4-0-19-0 4-0-14-2), Blackwell 10-1-41-2 (3-0-14-1 7-1-27-1), Batty 8.2-0-41-0 (nb1,w2) (4-0-19-0 3-0-18-0 1.2-0-4-0), Collingwood 2-0-10-0 (one spell).
Progress: M J Prior kept wicket because G O Jones injured a hamstring when batting. Power play 1: overs 1-10 52-0; PP2 overs 24-28 from 121-1 to 152-3; PP3 overs 29-33 171-4. 50 in 43 mins, 63 balls. 100 in 89 mins, 122 balls. 150 in 129 mins, 171 balls. 200 in 178 mins, 237 balls.
Dravid 50: 94 mins, 62 balls, 6 fours.
Result: India won by 4 wkts.
Umpires: K Hariharan and R E Koertzen.
TV replay umpire: A V Jayaprakash.
Match referee: R S Mahanama.
Man of the match: Yuvraj Singh.Reuse content