Fading light prompts England defeat

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The Independent Online

The Kanpur smog ruined England’s chances of fighting their way back in to the seven match series when the umpires offered India’s batsmen the light with the game delicately placed.

India still required 43 in nine overs with five wickets in hand when the match officials deemed the conditions not to be fit, a decision that robbed England the chance of a victory they had worked so hard to achieve. The move allowed India to win the match by 16 runs (Duckworth/Lewis) and take a 3-0 lead in the series.

Kevin Pietersen, the England captain, and his players surrounded the umpires following their decision but there was little he or his team could do. A late start – because of smog – and a slow over rate ensured the game finished well after schedule and the light, to be fair to the umpires, was not particularly good.

England’s bowlers worked hard to get themselves back in to the match after a start/stop batting display that realised just 240 runs. Andrew Flintoff was magnificent, bowling with fire and skill, and he was well supported by Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, making his international comeback.

England’s disappointment was understandable but India were in the stronger position, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, their captain, and Yusuf Pathan still at the crease. Once again it was an improved performance from England but there now seems little chance of them getting back in the series.

India made a strong start to their run chase with Gautem Gambhir and Virender Sehwag once again highlighting what gifted players they are. The introduction of Andrew Flintoff brought an end to their fun and Gambhir fell, caught by Stuart Broad at third man, attempting to hack England’s talisman back over his head for six.

Broad was in an aggressive mood too, hitting the pitch hard and bowling with real purpose. The fast bowler set about Suresh Raina, who looked uncomfortable against the short ball. The ‘roughing up’ brought deserved reward for Broad when Raina dragged an expansive, and desperate, drive on to his stumps.

Rohit Sharma and Sehwag settled the hearts of a throbbing crowd with a 63 run partnership before Sharma edged a cut at the recalled Graeme Swann through to Matthew Prior. Sehwag continued to look dangerous as he passed fifty but on 68 he squirted a square drive to Paul Collingwood, who took a brilliant catch at backward point.

Dhoni struggled against the excellent spin of Swann but Yuvraj continued his fine form. He was no match for Flintoff though, who had him caught hooking at deep square leg on 38. The wicket gave England real belief they could win the game, belief that was sadly scuppered in cruel circumstances.

Early morning fog and smog delayed the start of play by 45 minutes but Kevin Pietersen decided to bat on winning the toss. Having dropped his fastest bowler, Stephen Harmison, for a spinner, Graeme Swann, the England captain had little option.

England did not change their batting personnel but made wholesale alterations to the order, which had been lacking punch in the opening two one-dayers. Ravi Bopara was promoted to open with Ian Bell and Matthew Prior was relegated to eight. Pietersen moved up to three and Paul Collingwood to four, alterations that resulted in Andrew Flintoff coming in at five and Owais Shah at six.

And the moves seemed to working as Bell and Bopara set about the Indian seamers. The pair were watchful to begin with, but once in they combined aggression with common sense, taking their side to 79 without loss in the 15th over. The departure of Bell for 46 and the introduction of spin changed the course of the innings.

In an attempt to break shackles Pietersen hacked Vuvraj Singh over long on for six but he perished at long off attempting a similar shot off Harbhajan Singh. For a player of Pietersen’s class it was a soft dismissal, and he knew it.

Collingwood quickly followed, dragged out of his crease by a beautiful piece of spin bowling from Harbhajan. Bopara played several delightful shots on his way to third one-day half century before losing his wicket in a similar manner to Collingwood. On this occasion, though, the bowler was Yuvraj.

And so England’s innings lost momentum. Shah, with 40, and Flintoff and Patel with 26 each, attempted to add vigour in the closing overs but failed. England messed up the final Powerplay – they should have taken it whilst Flintoff was still at the crease – scoring only 22 runs in it. Their final total of 240 did not seem to be enough, and so it proved to be.