England managed to make a molehill out of a mountain as they slumped to a six-wicket defeat against Delhi today. Ian Bell's assured century helped set the hosts 295 to win and they achieved a memorable victory with nine balls to spare.
It is England's second sizeable loss in a row after India A meted out a 53-run defeat on Sunday. In the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad it raises questions about the second-string seamers' ability to be effective in these conditions. Too often the four-man attack of Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach, Chris Woakes and Stuart Meaker strayed with both line and length.
Defending any large total requires discipline, with consistency forcing the batters to take risks. However, as James Tredwell admitted: "We didn't hit our lengths consistently enough to build pressure over periods of time." Instead, the asking rate of 5.9 runs was always within the hosts' control.
Before the game, England's bowling coach David Saker called on Finn to assume greater responsibility. On this evidence, Saker will have to call a little louder. Two wides in Finn's opening over suggested a bowler searching for rhythm and figures of 0 for 47 off eight overs prove that sometimes statistics do tell the truth.
Tredwell, who was once again England's best bowler, looked to have finally put the lesser opposition in their place with two quick wickets but, by the time Milind Kumar hit the winning runs in just his sixth List A match, memories of those dismissals were in the distant past.
But to refresh, way back in the 18th over, Tredwell made the breakthrough with only his fourth ball, inducing Unmukt Chand to play into the hands of Alastair Cook at mid-on.
It prevented England conceding a century opening stand for the second successive match. Tredwell's intervention, coming as it did in his first over, is the sort more associated with the absent Graeme Swann.
The off-spinner proved imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as he struck again in his third over with a delivery of which Swann would have been proud. In an effort to absolve his fellow bowlers, Tredwell said, "The result is irrelevant, it doesn't mean a great deal in the scheme of things."
What is relevant is that once again England struggled with the new one-day regulations. This time it was the rule reducing the number of fielders outside the circle. "We're getting used to that extra man in the circle and still trying to work out the different plans for that," added Tredwell. "Clearly that's something we need to get our heads around pretty quickly."
Ashley Giles, the new coach, will be concerned that two months after the introduction of the new regulations, they are still causing headaches.
At least he doesn't need to worry about the batting. Although, Joe Root and Samit Patel failed to impress, the latter bowled playing back to a spinner for the second straight match. For a man picked for his proficiency against a turning ball, it is a worrying trend.
Bell scored 108 from 125 balls. His was an innings that veered between the mundane and the spectacular, with prolonged periods of dots and singles interspersed with electrifying bursts of boundaries. His opening partner, Cook, played as if he'd never been away before bowing out with 44 runs to his name from 58 deliveries.
Once Bell and Eoin Morgan (52) brought up their 50-partnership, they let loose. It took them just 22 balls to reach the 100-mark as England threatened to break the 300-barrier with ease. After reaching his century, Bell launched his very next ball for six but soon departed when he merged a spectacular slog with a mundane miss.
As it was, England had to rely on some explosive batting from Craig Kieswetter, with 41 from 27 balls with two sixes off the final two balls. That put the finishing touches to the mountain that Delhi scaled with ease.
Delhi, Feroz Shah Kotla (One-day): Delhi beat England by six wickets; England won toss
*A N Cook b Narwal 44/0/7/58/67
I R Bell lbw b Sood 108/2/9/125/195
J E Root c Bisht b Sood 10/0/0/17/28
S R Patel b Sood 13/0/1/18/24
E J G Morgan c Chand b Anand 52/2/4/55/94
†C Kieswetter not out 41/3/2/27/29
C R Woakes not out 3/0/0/3/8
Extras (b1 lb6 w13 nb3) 23
Total (for 5, 50 overs) 294
Fall 1-70, 2-94, 3-130, 4-243, 5-269.
Did not bat J C Tredwell, S C Meaker, S T Finn, J W Dernbach.
Bowling A Nehra 9-0-48-0, P Awana 8-1-53-0, S Narwal 10-0-66-1, J Anand 7-0-35-1, V Sood 10-0-45-3, R Bhatia 6-0-40-0.
*S Dhawan lbw b Root 110/3/14/109/139
U Chand c Cook b Tredwell 37/0/6/47/75
J Anand b Tredwell 4/0/0/11/15
M Kumar not out 78/3/7/85/120
V P Rawal b Dernbach 2/0/0/8/8
R Bhatia not out 45/0/8/33/60
Extras (lb10 w7 nb2) 19
Total (for 4, 48.3 overs) 295
Fall 1-98, 2-122, 3-188, 4-192.
Did not bat †P Bisht, S Narwal, P Awana, A Nehra, V Sood.
Bowling S T Finn 8-0-47-0, J W Dernbach 9-1-46-1, C R Woakes 6-0-40-0, S R Patel 7-0-41-0, J C Tredwell 9-1-49-2, S C Meaker 7.3-0-55-0, J E Root 2-0-7-1.
Umpires K Bharatan and A K Chowdhury.