Tourists mirror captain's steel

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The Independent Online

After England's batsmen had again done their best to hand this final match to India, after Marcus Trescothick had again given them a superb start, it was again the bowlers who put things right just in time at the very end. Drawing this series 3-3 has been an excellent result after being 3-1 down.

The spirit of this England side is unquenchable. On this last day, with a long journey to New Zealand starting in the middle of the night, their minds might not have been entirely on the job.

Nasser Hussain's determination is highly infectious, though. He was at first furious with himself for holing out at deep square-leg when he and Trescothick had the Indian bowlers at their mercy. He will have been appalled at the way his middle order, with a sorry display, almost presented India with the match and the series.

It was Andrew Flintoff who showed he has begun to develop into the all-round cricketer he has always threatened to be. His bowling has been impressive and, after a disastrous time in the Test matches before Christmas and in the first four one-day games afterwards, he has shown in the last two that he is listening to advice.

He steered England from 174 for 7 in the 30th over to 255 all out in the 50th. He took no risks and you could see him remembering what he had been told as he played each stroke and his 40 runs made victory possible. One could see the hand of Hussain in this innings.

In the field, England, as usual, had to weather that earlier punishing storm even though, for once, Sachin Tendulkar went early. Hussain is a past master of keeping control, preventing panic and setting his meticulous fields. He is a hard cricketer and not many opponents will love him, but, like Douglas Jardine, he aims to win, not to be loved.

He had to keep his nerve as Sourav Ganguly cut loose and played some prodigious strokes, including straight drives for six off both Darren Gough and Andy Caddick. Hussain never relaxed the pressure though, and just as it seemed that Ganguly must take India to victory, the left-arm spinner Ashley Giles profited from the sort of luck you have if pressure is maintained, and bowled Ganguly off his pads as he swept.

Hussain's handling of the situation after that was masterful as he quietly and methodically strangled the rest of the Indian batsmen. On a pitch with plenty of bounce he shrewdly left the closing overs to Caddick, Gough and Flintoff. The margin at the end was only five runs and it was Hussain's triumph as much as the bowlers and fielders. One just worries that one day, like Jardine, his ice-cutting singleness of purpose will cause a major explosion. But without his captaincy, England could not now have done it.

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