India's passionate, excitable and extremely noisy fans yesterday made the leafy suburbs of Edgbaston feel more like Eden Gardens, Kolkata, but it was England who held their nerve to move 2-1 up in the seven match NatWest Series.
For 38 overs of India's reply it appeared as though the match would produce another thrilling finish. India, chasing 282 for victory, were well placed on 190 for 4 with Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, two of one-day cricket's most destructive batsmen, at the crease.
But Dhoni then cut James Anderson straight to Paul Collingwood in the gully and India's innings fell apart. Collingwood, the England captain, dismissed Ramesh Powar and Piyush Chawla in the 43rd over, but it was the run out of Yuvraj four balls later that finally sealed the result. Yuvraj, desperately seeking to get on strike so that he could have a slog at Monty Panesar, was sent back by his partner when looking for a quick single, and was beaten by a quick pick up and throw from Ian Bell to the bowler.
Bell, who scored a responsible and skilful 79 with the bat, played the pivotal innings in England's 42-run victory. James Anderson, with 3 for 32, bowled superbly, too, but it was an excellent all-round team effort that enabled Collingwood's side to triumph. England batted intelligently, assessing correctly what a competitive score was on the pitch, and then fielded with energy and commitment. And all this was achieved without the services of their talisman, Andrew Flintoff, who was rested to give his injured right knee an extra couple of days to recover.
Bell is turning in to the real deal at No 3. Before and during the World Cup he was criticised because his innings tended to taper off after a good start but now, under the tutorage of Andy Flower, England's batting coach, this no longer seems to be the case. The 25-year-old now places the ball expertly in to gaps and seems totally in control. A couple of straight sixes off Chawla, the young leg-spinner, showed that he can clear the rope when it is needed but he now possesses the confidence to leave the fireworks to those who it suits more readily.
Bell has now top-scored in each of England's three one-day games against India and his run tally is 269 for only twice out. It is on the back of his batting that England have been able to amass totals greater than 280 in each of the games.
Collingwood had an excellent game, too, scoring 44 and taking two key wickets, but it was his captaincy that should have given him the greatest satisfaction. In the field he placed the right men in the right position and changed his bowlers wisely. It would have been easy for him to ignore Chris Tremlett after his opening two overs, which went for 20, but he showed confidence in the paceman, bringing him back when India, on 140 for 2, were at their most dangerous. Tremlett did not let him down, dismissing Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly when they were well set in consecutive overs.
Sachin Tendulkar, the third member of the big three, was understandably disappointed with his dismissal in the second one-dayer but he could have not complaints here, cutting a short ball to Collingwood at deep gully. Taking Tendulkar's wicket lifts every team because anything is possible whilst he is at the crease.
Alastair Cook and Matthew Prior gave England their third good start of the series, striking 76 runs at a rate of almost six an over before Prior, working to leg, chipped a catch to backward point. Prior is positioned at the top of England's order to give the innings early impetus but, once again, it was Cook who took the initiative.
Cook, as he regularly seems to, had a stroke of good luck, this time on 15 when he was dropped at fine-leg playing one such shot at the fit again Zaheer Khan. RP Singh grassed the relatively simple chance, highlighting again the sloppy nature of India's fielding. Dropped catches and shoddy ground fielding must be costing Dravid's side 30-40 runs per game. It could easily be claimed that it cost them the match here.
It was the introduction of spin that checked England's scoring. Powar is an extraordinary cricketer, a throwback to an era when players were not expected to carry the body fat of an Olympic middle distance runner. Standing at a rotund 5ft 8in, wearing a big diamond earring, red sunglasses and with his hair occasionally in a ponytail he looks more like a sugar daddy from a seedy nightclub than a professional sportsman. As a bowler he is a breath of fresh air. The 29-year-old attempts to lure batsmen in to a false shots by tossing the ball invitingly in the air. A brave player would come down the wicket and attempt to get to the pitch of the ball. But the ploy is fraught with danger. Powar spins the ball sharply, drifts it away from a right-hand batsman and gets it to drop, assets that are brought about by him giving the ball a real rip.
A reluctance to go down the pitch caused Cook and Collingwood to resort to playing the sweep and reverse-sweep, strokes that caused their demise. Monty Panesar has already sought advice from Warne and Muralitharan in his England career; he could do worse than spend an hour chatting with Powar before India leave these shores.
The sight of England struggling to play spin encouraged Dravid to turn to his second spinner, Chawla. In almost three years of outstanding achievement the bat of Kevin Pietersen has conquered the genius of Warne and Muralitharan but for the second consecutive innings he was bamboozled by Chawla, a raw and promising 18-year-old leg-spinner. At Bristol Pietersen was bowled through the gate, here he was stumped when he missed a swipe at a googly.
With Pietersen gone and England on 113 for 3 in the 24th over the innings was in danger of falling apart, but such fears were allayed by Bell and Collingwood who added 76 in 15 overs. With wickets in hand the middle and lower order added 80 valuable runs in the final 10 overs. India were in an almost identical position after 40 overs but it is harder to score runs when chasing down a target.Reuse content