The four floodlight pylons here at the Nehru Stadium donned 70-foot images of a smiling Andrew Flintoff advertising a local soft drink company. The Flintoff who departed the arena yesterday afternoon, following England's 49-run defeat to India in the third one-day international, wore more of a frown, and he appeared ready for a beverage that had slightly more substance to it than water.
The victory margin, and the fact England scored 245 in reply to India's 294 for 6, suggests this was a relatively close contest. It was not. India controlled the game from the moment Rahul Dravid won the toss and England never looked capable of winning.
Paul Collingwood and Geraint Jones restored respectability with a 105-run partnership. Collingwood showed industry and skill during his innings of 93, but it was a magnificent 103 from India's Yuvraj Singh that broke England and ended any realistic chance turning it in to a competitive series. The defeat leaves England 3-0 down in the seven match tournament and it would be something of an achievement if they were to win two of the remaining four games.
"We have a mountain to climb," admitted a weary looking Flintoff. "But there are still four games left and we have got to believe that we can get back into this series. It will be tough, India are a very good side, but the lads desperately want to do it and so do I.
"Yuvraj played a great knock and chasing 290 on a wearing pitch was always going to be tough. I would not say our bowlers let us down but Yuvraj and Suresh Raina played very well and probably scored 40-50 runs more than a par score on that wicket." England know what a gifted cricketer Yuvraj is. In 2002 the left hander played two thrilling innings at Lord's to help India win the NatWest series. Yesterday, on a pitch where it was difficult to time the ball, was even more impressive.
Yuvraj was helped by an England attack that failed to bowl with control or discipline in the second half of India's innings but, even so, he still struck the ball superbly. His fifty came off the 49th ball he faced, and he raced to three figures in a further 24 deliveries.
Ian Blackwell, Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett were each heaved over the deep midwicket boundary for six as India added 98 runs in the final 10 overs of their innings. Yuvraj received excellent excellent support from Raina who gave another indication of his talent with a classy 61.
After watching India lose three wickets in four overs the pair paced their partnership perfectly. They started patiently, and then, with England fading in the heat, they began to dominate. When Yuvraj chipped Flintoff to extra cover they had put on 142 runs for the fifth wicket in just 126 balls.
Flintoff defended his bowlers at the end of the game, and heaped praise on Yuvraj and Raina. Yet privately he and Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, must be concerned with their inability to bowl yorkers in the closing overs. There is nothing batsmen like more at the end of an innings than a good length ball. It is a delivery that can be hit anywhere.
England made two changes to the side that lost in Delhi and Faridabad. Illness caused Kevin Pietersen to withdraw, giving Vikram Solanki another chance, and Kabir Ali was dropped for Sajid Mahmood.
Mahmood is a fast bowler with a lot of promise but he had a day to forget. In his second one-day international he struggled with the heat, misfielded the ball on a couple of occasions, conceded 66 runs in eight overs and had his middle stump knocked out by Ajit Agarkar to lose the game.
Flintoff went for more than six runs an over himself and it appears that his growing list of responsibilities is beginning to take its toll. Flintoff needs assistance. He needs someone with whom he can share the workload. But, especially on the fast bowling front, help is sparse.
The absence of Pietersen placed even greater onus on Flintoff and he was back out in the sun batting by the 12th over. Irfan Pathan dismissed Andrew Strauss, Ian Blackwell and Owais Shah with a series of cleverly disguised cutters in an opening spell England's bowlers ought to have watched.
With England on 46 for 3 Flintoff did not seem to know how to approach his task, and it was indecision which resulted in the run out of Matthew Prior. With the game all but lost, his options were:have a heave and see where it got him; ensure that England achieved a respectable total, or say "sod it" and have some fun.
In the end he achieved none of the above as he top-edged a slog sweep to the deep midwicket boundary. Flintoff stayed on one knee to watch the flight of the ball and on seeing Virender Sehwag take the catch he put his hand over his face in horror. It was an image that summed up England's day.
Scoreboard from Goa
India won the toss
V Sehwag b Anderson 15 27 min, 26 balls, 2 fours
*R S Dravid b Collingwood 46 101 min, 59 balls, 6 fours
I K Pathan c Collingwood b Flintoff 36 97 min, 63 balls, 3 fours, 1 six
Yuvraj Singh c Collingwood b Flintoff 103 114 min, 76 balls, 10 fours, 3 sixes
M Kaif c Jones b Plunkett 0 3 min, 3 balls
S K Raina b Flintoff 61 95 min, 68 balls, 5 fours, 1 six
ÝM S Dhoni not out 13 11 min, 6 balls, 1 four, 1 six
R R Powar not out 1 2 min, 1 ball
Extras (b0 lb3 w14 nb2) 19
Total (for 6, 228min, 50 overs) 294
Fall: 1-27 (Sehwag); 2-105 (Dravid); 3-130 (Pathan); 4-131 (Kaif); 5-273 (Yuvraj Singh); 6-288 (Raina).
Did not bat: A B Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, M M Patel.
Bowling: Anderson 9-1-40-1 (w2) (6-1-17-1 1-0-7-0 2-0-16-0); Mahmood 8-0-66-0 (w2) (4-0-21-0 2-0-17-0 2-0-28-0); Flintoff 9-0-56-3 (nb2,w3) (3-0-16-0 3-0-15-1 1-0-10-0 2-0-15-2); Plunkett 6-0-39-1 (w1) (2-0-10-0 2-0-13-1 2-0-16-0); Blackwell 10-1-42-0 (w2) (4-0-19-0 6-1-23-0); Collingwood 5-0-31-1 (w2) (4-0-21-1 1-0-10-0); Solanki 3-0-17-0 (w2) (one spell).
Progress: Power Play 1: overs 1-10, 41-1; PP2: overs 11-15, 64-1; PP3: overs 24-28 from 105-2 to 131-4.
50: 55min, 77 balls. 100: in 99min, 136 balls. 150: in 142min, 182 balls. 200: 183min, 246 balls. 250: 205min, 274 balls.
Yuvraj Singh's 50: 73min, 49 balls, 6 fours. 100: 111min, 73 balls, 10 fours, 3 sixes. Raina's 50: 81min, 58 balls, 3 fours, 1 six.
A J Strauss c Dhoni b Pathan 7 17 min, 13 balls, 1 four
M J Prior run out (Patel-Dhoni) 37 89 min, 54 balls, 7 fours
I D Blackwell b Pathan 9 16 min, 11 balls, 1 four
O A Shah c Yuvraj Singh b Pathan 7 18 min, 11 balls, 1 four
*A Flintoff c Sehwag b Powar 15 42 min, 30 balls, 2 fours
P D Collingwood c Raina b Harbhajan Singh 93 117 min, 84 balls, 10 fours, 1 six
V S Solanki c Yuvraj Singh b Harbhajan Singh 10 23 min, 20 balls, 1 six
ÝG O Jones c Sehwag b Pathan 32 71 min, 42 balls, 1 six
L E Plunkett b Agarkar 18 26 min, 19 balls, 2 fours
S I Mahmood b Agarkar 8 17 min, 9 balls
J M Anderson not out 2 3 min, 2 balls
Extras (b 0, lb 2, w 3, nb 2, pens 0) 7
Total (225min, 48.5 overs) 245
Fall: 1-8 (Strauss); 2-27 (Blackwell); 3-47 (Shah); 4-78 (Prior); 5-83 (Flintoff); 6-100 (Solanki); 7-205 (Jones); 8-223 (Collingwood); 9-242 (Plunkett); 10-245 (Mahmood).
Bowling: Pathan 10-0-51-4 (w2) (7-0-25-3 3-0-26-1); Patel 8-0-47-0 (w1) (5-0-22-0 2-0-19-0 1-0-6-0); Agarkar 7.5-0-34-2 (6-0-22-0 1.5-0-12-2); Harbhajan Singh 10-1-47-2 (3-0-14-0 5-1-23-1 2-0-10-1); Powar 10-0-45-1 (nb2) (5-0-16-1 5-0-29-0); Yuvraj Singh 3-0-19-0 (one spell).
Progress: Power play 1: overs 1-10 44-2; PP2 overs 11-15 58-3; PP3 16-20 83-4.
50: 57min, 67 balls. 100: 120min, 150 balls. 150: 163min, 214 balls. 200: 192 mins, 253 balls.
Collingwood's 50: 80min, 54 balls, 6 fours.
India won by 49 runs.
Umpires: Asad Rauf and K Hariharan.
TV replay umpire: I Shivram.
Match referee: R S Mahanama.
Man of the match: Yuvraj Singh.Reuse content