England held their nerve as James Tredwell spun them to a memorable nine-run victory over India to go 1-0 up in the five-match series here in Rajkot. Earlier, Ian Bell's 85 and a brutal 44 from 20 balls from Samit Patel, provided the alpha and omega of England's 325. It was a total that, thanks to Tredwell's career-best 4 for 44, proved beyond the hosts.
Those are the bare facts devoid of context. It is 14 matches since England last beat India in India. When Andrew Strauss led that team in Jamshedpur in April 2006, Tony Blair was Prime Minister and England debutant Joe Root was just 15.
To add further context, 11 members of this party were in the squad that was whitewashed here in October 2011. "It's pretty much the same squad as when we lost 5-0 so to get an early win proves that they can play in these conditions," said captain Alastair Cook. "I thought the calmness we showed was brilliant. If you compare that to what we were doing in 2011, there was a really big difference."
The seamers may have mopped up, but it was Tredwell who proved crucial. "I was just trying to build up pressure on the batsmen," said the ever modest spinner, "but it is pleasing to take wickets in a game like this."
Openers Ajinkya Rahane and Gautam Gambhir made light work over the two new balls, with England's three frontline seamers going for 66 runs off the first 10 overs. For over No 11, Cook threw the ball to Tredwell; 40 overs later, he was man of the match. "We know what Tredders does, to get 4 for 44 on there was a brilliant effort," said Cook.
The off-spinner probed with metronomic precision, restricting the batsmen to dots and singles where once there were boundaries. The pressure told when he beat Rahane in the flight and the ball ended in the grateful hands of Jade Dernbach.
It took Tredwell five more deliveries before once again his bald pate was receiving congratulatory slaps from team-mates, with Gambhir out and Bell taking the catch.
When Yuvraj Singh swivel-pulled Tim Bresnan for a remarkable six and then helped himself to 12 off a particularly wayward Dernbach over, 326 was beginning to look surmountable. Trust Tredwell to redress the balance. Yuvraj brought up his 50th ODI half century off 39 balls but the only answer he had to a quicker Tredwell delivery was to scoop it to Dernbach.
He disposed of another half-centurion when he caught and bowled Suresh Raina to leave India's chances in MS Dhoni's hands. Four maximums from Dhoni's blade had the capacity crowd baying, but Dernbach, who finished with 2 for 69, silenced the city with a slower ball that dropped into Root's hands.
Bell's earlier knock warranted such a spirited defence. Since moving to the top of the order, the Warwickshire man averages 57. Together, Bell and Cook put on 158 for the first wicket.
That should have brought Root to the crease but demonstrating a flexibility often alien to English cricket, Ashley Giles sent in Eoin Morgan to bat with Kevin Pietersen. The bold move paid off as the pair put on 76 runs from 65 balls. Patel then rendered their premature dismissals irrelevant when he combined with Craig Kieswetter to hit 70 runs off the final six overs.
That left the stage clear for Tredwell to bowl better than he ever has in an England shirt, and set up a win judged memorable, whatever the context.
14 matches since England's previous ODI win in India
158 Alastair Cook and Ian Bell put on England's record opening ODI stand against India
7 England scored 300+ for the seventh time in ODIs against India
4 James Tredwell took four wickets in an ODI for the second time
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