Flintoff and Shah fail to save series for England

India 166-4 England 178-8

Mahendra Singh Dhoni positioned four slips and a gully for the final ball of this rain affected and enthralling 22 over contest. There are some who would construe that the actions of the Indian captain were disrespectful to his opponents but they were not, Dhoni is not that type of man. England were in the hopeless position of needing 20 runs to win off the last delivery of the match and India were attempting to finish the game with a hat-trick.

What Dhoni’s field setting did do was highlight the gulf in class that has existed between India and England throughout the series, and how comfortable their series victory has been. Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff battled hard under the Bangalore lights to give England hope of keeping the series alive – the pair added 82 runs in 48 balls to leave their side requiring 67 off the final six overs, two of which were Powerplay overs - but both fell within five balls. Their dismissals consigned England to a 19 run Duckworth/Lewis defeat, a result that left India with an unassailable and deserved 4-0 lead in the seven match series.

Whilst together Shah and Flintoff had India worried. Shah struck and enterprising 72, an innings that would have helped his chances of being offered a contract in the Indian Premier League, and Flintoff clobbered 41. Shah hit three huge sixes but none was as big as that struck by Flintoff, which rattled in to the roof of the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Shah, surprisingly promoted ahead of Kevin Pietersen to three, and Flintoff provided respectability to England’s run chase but India, as they have been throughout the series, were the far better side, and they fully merit their 4-0 lead up in the series. England’s task now is to ensure that it does not become a 7-0 whitewash.

Zaheer Khan was the pick of India’s bowlers, delivering the ball with skill, purpose and accuracy during five testing overs, and it was he who removed Shah. Ishant Sharma, shorn of his long hair, dismissed Flintoff when the all-rounder clubbed a short ball to extra cover.

“I’m disappointed but we have to keep our chins up and try to win some games of cricket out here and make the rest of the series competitive,” said Kevin Pietersen. “ We came up against a fantastic India team who are playing great cricket with no fear and confidence. We have to keep going because there is still a Test series to come.”

Poor weather may have prevented England from clawing their way back in to the seven match series in Kanpur, but it helped Kevin Pietersen’s side here. England’s Duckworth/Lewis adjusted target of 198 in 22 overs was always going to be tough to chase down, but it was easier than chasing around 350, the 50 over target India looked set to post before rain interrupted their innings.

England’s reply began in amazing style, with just 21 runs coming from the initial seven overs they faced. A diving Ishant Sharma brilliantly caught Ravi Bopara at mid on, a snaffle that not only surprised the fast bowler but his team mates too. Ian Bell did little to suggest that he is a Twenty20 player of the future, scoring 12 in eight overs. The floodlights here are as powerful as any in the world and England’s top order seemed to be trapped in them. The teams fate appeared sealed when Pietersen was bowled for five.

India’s truncated innings – heavy rain forced the hosts from the field after 14 and then 17 overs – was dominated by Virender Sehwag, who batted beautifully for his 69. Sehwag was once again given excellent support by Gautam Gambhir, and the pair added 79 quickfire runs for the second wicket. The pair made light of the early loss of Sachin Tendulkar, bowled by the luckless Stuart Broad for 11.

There was also explosive hitting from Yuvraj Singh, who struck Pietersen for two huge sixes in five frantic overs that conceded 60 runs at the end of India’s innings. The rain interruptions and the fact that England’s seamers had bowled 16 of the initial 17 overs, meant that Pietersen had to bowl himself, his spinners or possibly Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara. Pietersen chose to go for his spinners and it proved costly.

Sehwag is a remarkable player, one of the freest the game has seen. He has no fear, as he showed when he carved the first ball of the game, bowled by James Anderson, for four. And, just to prove a second lengthy delay had not created inhibition he carted the first ball he faced after the break for six too, one of three he dispatched in to the crowd. Had the match remained a 50 over affair he would surely have completed a tenth one-day hundred.

Sehwag’s onslaught ended when he hit a low Graeme Swann full toss to Anderson at long on, and it was the same combination that ended Gambhir innings two overs later. The wickets did little to check the run rate as Yuvraj set about the bowling. A disappointing display by England in the field ended on an apt note when Yusuf Pathan cracked the last ball of India’s innings hugely back over Patel’s head for six.

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