England collapse hands India victory - Sport - The Independent

England collapse hands India victory

An almighty collapse led to England losing the opening match of the one-day series against India by 39 runs.

They appeared to be cruising as big hitters Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff sent the ball to all parts but once they departed in consecutive overs the rest succumbed against the turning ball.

In all the tourists lost their final seven wickets for only 47 runs at the Feroz Shah Kotla - although 22 of those were put on by last pair Liam Plunkett and James Anderson.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh finished with career-best figures of five for 31 amid the mayhem.

Despite losing two wickets in the first over and coming together as early as the 12th over, the fourth-wicket pair of Pietersen and Flintoff silenced the 40,000 crowd with some stunning blows.

After Pietersen injected some impetus into the chase by walking down the track and timing the ball supremely, Flintoff took over to strike 41 of their share of 60 runs, made in only eight overs.

Twice in one over Flintoff cleared the ropes as Sri Sreesanth was hit to long off and deep midwicket.

However, Pietersen perished in the next over attempting a six to get to his half-century, caught at deep midwicket to give left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh a success.

It was a disappointing dismissal, coming as it did in the same manner in which Matt Prior had departed to Harbhajan Singh.

The decibel levels rose when captain Flintoff fell in the very next over, the 21st of the innings, as Harbhajan earned a leg-before decision from a missed sweep.

And when wicketkeeper Geraint Jones was yorked by the on-song Harbhajan all the momentum was with the home team.

India's spinners posed problems as the afternoon drew on and England were not helped by their shot selection as Ian Blackwell holed out in the deep from another sweep.

It was Guatam Gambhir's third catch and the best of the lot, tumbling back towards the midwicket rope.

Another sharp piece of fielding gave Harbhajan his fifth wicket as Mohammad Kaif held on at short leg after Paul Collingwood turned the ball to the leg side.

Kabir Ali became Yuvraj's second victim when a quicker ball pinned him in front of the stumps and the innings was concluded by Pathan, who found the outside edge of Plunkett's bat.

Left-arm swing bowler Pathan prised out former Middlesex colleagues Andrew Strauss and Owais Shah in the space of four balls as the pitch continued to encourage the pacemen at the start of the reply.

Strauss was caught behind nibbling at a ball which left him off the surface while Shah was adjudged leg before to a delivery which shaped back.

Two more vociferous shouts for lbw against Pietersen, one apiece from Pathan and Sreesanth, encouraged the raucous crowd further.

Prior's innings could have come to its conclusion earlier than it did as Pietersen hit to cover and called for the single which got him off the mark - Mohammad Kaif's throw narrowly missed the stumps with Prior short of his ground.

Earlier, Kabir Ali claimed an one-day best of four for 45 as India, asked to bat first by Flintoff, were dismissed with 20 balls of their 50-over allocation unused.

Anderson and Plunkett finished with two wickets apiece while slow left-armer Blackwell did not conceded a boundary in a controlled 10-over spell which cost only 24 runs.

Harbhajan top-scored with an entertaining 37 from number nine as India recovered from 80 for five to post a respectable total given the bowler-friendly surface.

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