A one-day victory away to India tastes sweet whoever you are – but for Samit Patel, bitter personal experience meant that England's nine-run win in Rajkot came with an extra spoonful of sugar.
When Jade Dernbach held his nerve for the final over, it brought to an end a miserable run of 13 matches without a 50-over win for England in India. The last time an English away dressing room celebrated victory was in 2006 with their last two tours, in 2008 and 2011, both producing 5-0 whitewashes.
Those 10 defeats have just one constant: Patel. The Nottinghamshire all-rounder played in every one, which helps explain the brutal intensity he showed in his 20-ball innings, which brought him more than half the total runs he scored in the entire 2008 series. With six fours and one maximum on his way to a decisive 44 not out, Patel was not just banishing balls to boundary, he was seeking to banish some bad memories.
"I've been here for 10 ODIs before and lost all 10. It's just great to get a win here," said Patel. "Sometimes people don't realise how much of an effort it is to beat these guys over here.
"They're not just good players in their own backyard. They play good one-day cricket all around the world but in India they dominate spinners and they dominate cricket in general.
"On past tours here we've not even won a warm-up game," said Patel, all too aware that he was also involved in both warm-up defeats in Delhi. "To win the first ODI in Rajkot was fantastic. We knew the boys were ready but what a great win."
If it was possible for victory to taste even sweeter, the fact that his India one-day hoodoo was ended in Gujarat, where his Baroda-born parents grew up, was an added hit.
It sounded like he needed one, as he admitted: "To play India in 2008 was quite demoralising." On that tour Patel scored just 85 runs at 21.25 and took three wickets, giving away an exorbitant 7.82 runs an over in the process. "We put up good scores and they knocked them off, they put up good scores and we got nowhere near them," he recalled.
If England do go on to claim only a second series win in India and their first since 1984-85, Patel knows where the difference will lie when compared with previous misadventures, "I think the way we've learned how to play their spinners is outstanding and a credit to us as a team, because in past tours we've struggled.
"It just shows if you put in the hard yards and you learn, you get your rewards. The Test series win was outstanding. It took a lot of courage, a lot of desire, a lot of hard work. It is something good to be a part of and I think we can achieve [the ODI series victory] if we stay calm and level-headed. If we look to be positive and back our own ability, then we have a good chance."
England can take a big step towards taking that chance in the second match in the coastal town of Kochi tomorrow. Of the likely starters, only James Tredwell and Joe Root have not experienced one-day defeat in India – if they wonder what it tastes like, they know the man to ask.
If India do go 2-0 down, the pressure will pile on to the home skipper MS Dhoni, who yesterday got a pat on the back from one former captain in Sourav Ganguly who said the team has to face this transition phase in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup.
This criticism, he said, "comes in every captain's tenure – MS has to bide his time. You have to give the newcomers some time to settle down. Hopefully, they will do well in a couple of years' time." Dhoni, of course, may not be given a couple of years.
Defeat would also mean more calls for Cheteshwar Pujara – fresh from a Ranji Trophy triple century – to make his ODI debut. "I'm sure he would become a part of the side soon. It's just a matter of time," said Ganguly.
Second ODI: Kochi details
* Probable teams:
A M Rahane, G Gambhir, V Kohli, Y Singh, S K Raina, M S Dhoni (capt; wk), R A Jadeja, R Ashwin, B Kumar, I Sharma, S Ahmed
A N Cook (capt), I R Bell, K P Pietersen, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wk), S R Patel, J E Root, T T Bresnan, J C Tredwell, S T Finn, J W Dernbach
* Umpires S J Davis (Aus) and V A Kulkarni (India).
* TV Tomorrow, 6am-3pm, Sky Sports 1
* Odds: India 4-6 England 6-5
* Weather Staying warm and sunny throughout the day. Maximum temperature: 30C.
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