England's revival faces toughest test so far

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Cricket

India 236-4 England 2-1

At last, a scrap appears to be developing in this rain beleaguered series. After England's clear superiority in the first two Texaco Trophy matches, India's 236 represents a defendable target. Even so, further rain has meant that those with ring-side seats will have to wait until today to see if England, finishing at 2 for 1, have it in them to overhaul it.

Reserve day crowds rarely exceed half the volume of their match day counterparts. Yet if spectators do turn up - and there is scant chance of that if Friday's crowd at the Oval is anything to go by - they could witness the best game of the series. With Michael Atherton already gone in the first over for a duck, England's much-touted renaissance faces its sternest test to date.

So far it has all gone swimmingly with England's comfortable victory at Headingley on Saturday providing hard evidence of the moral victory scored in the washed-out game at the Oval. Of course it is far too early to predict any long-term upturn in fortunes, but England appear far more spirited and committed than when they last took on international competition.

It was there again yesterday, not in the way they bowled - which lacked Headingley's distinction - but by the way they fielded, with players hurling themselves about, committing themselves even to lost causes. David Lloyd can't take the credit for their actions but he can take it for persuading them of the need to do it, and to have fun at the same time.

Yesterday was no exception, and the fuss that greeted Cork's dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar spread rapidly like a contagion. Once again Tendulkar went early, edging a short of a length ball, the extra bounce squaring the batsman up.

Before this game, India's batting had simply not performed, losing wickets too quickly to be in a position of dominance. Tendulkar's brilliance is at the heart of this. The pressure on him to take the strike and score big totals is enormous and his run-out on Saturday was careless, suggesting bigger things are on his mind. Here too, he was missed and his departure appeared to send the innings into deep rigor mortis and after 20 overs, India had scored only 53.

Crucially, this time wickets were kept intact, and once the left-handed Saurav Ganguly had larruped Cork to the cover boundary, the innings began to pick up momentum.

Hailing from Bengal, Ganguly is an anomaly amongst Indian cricketers. At nearly 30, he is virtually unknown, this being only his second one- day international. If there were nerves, they didn't show and he looked assured going about the reconstruction with a 93-run partnership with Vikram Rathore.

England's bowlers, so incisive and accurate at Headingley on Saturday, did not bowl as well. The presence of a left-hander, forcing adjustments that were approximated rather than pin-pointed and all but Gough got into a tangle, when bowling around the wicket to Ganguly.

Once again, Gough, bowled beautifully. However, such is the impure nature of one-day bowling, that his straightness and consistent length were urewarded and he went wicketless. Not so Cork and Graham Thorpe who took two apiece, the latter's wickets - his first in limited overs internationals - clear evidence that Atherton, with David Lloyd by his side, is more prepared to try the unusual.

Thorpe is more than a useful medium pacer and he should be encouraged to bowl more than he does. He was clearly overjoyed with his wickets here, though it was not quite in the same league as the crowd's response to his match winning knock at Headingley was.

It was one of his most important one-day innings and it was enjoyed by those present, in much the same way as Mohammad Azharuddin's was at Old Trafford. Coming in at four with an unbeaten 72, off just 64 balls, was again top-scorer for his side. With twenty overs batting time left, it wasn't long before Azha, with his whipcord wrists was unleashing his trademark shots through the leg-side.

Together with Ajay Jadeja, who provided attractive support, 72 runs was added in 11 overs. In an over from Neil Smith, 15 runs were scored, Azharuddin striking the off-spinner for two mighty sixes. Not to be outdone Jadeja lofted Chris Lewis high over long-off.

In the end, Cork's removal of Jadeja, brilliantly caught one-handed by Stewart behind the stumps, stemmed the momentum. England may be thankful of that later today.

Old Trafford scoreboard

India won toss. Today: 10.45.

INDIA

V Rathore c Cork b Thorpe 54

(121 min, 95 balls, 5 fours)

S R Tendulkar c Hick b Cork 1

(18 min, 11 balls)

S Ganguly st Stewart b Thorpe 46

(117 min, 83 balls, 3 fours)

*M Azharuddin not out 73

(77 min, 64 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes)

A D Jadeja c Stewart b Cork 29

(40 min, 32 balls, 1 four, 1 six)

R S Dravid not out 22

(21 min, 15 balls, 3 fours)

Extras (b1, lb4, w6) 11

Total (for 4, 199 min, 50 overs) 236

Fall: 1-11 (Tendulkar), 2-103 (Rathore), 3-118 (Ganguly), 4-190 (Jadeja).

Did not bat: N R Mongia, A Kumble, J Srinath, B K V Prasad, S L V Raju.

Bowling: Cork 10-3-35-2 (7-3-12-1 2-0-13-1 1-0-10-0), Lewis 10-1-49-0 (w3) (6-1-18-0 2-0-13-0 2-0-18-0), Gough 10-1-43-0 (w2) (6-1-16-0 2-0- 13-0 2-0-14-0), Martin 10-0-50-0 (4-0-16-0 4-0-19-0 2-0-15-0), Smith 6- 0-39-0 (3-0-18-0 3-0-21-0), Thorpe 4-0-15-2 (w1) (one spell).

Progress: Rain stopped play 11.12am-2.19pm at 12-1 (Rathore 10, Ganguly 0) 7 overs. 50 in 73 min, 107 balls. 100 in 117 min, 171 balls. 150 in 158 min, 240 balls. 200 in 182 min, 272 balls. Rathore 50: 114 min, 88 balls, 4 fours. Azharuddin 50: 51 min, 46 balls, 2 fours, 2 sixes.

ENGLAND

*M A Atherton lbw b Srinath 0

(3 min, 2 balls)

A D Brown not out 1

(6 min, 2 balls)

N M K Smith not out 0

(2 min, 2 balls)

Extras (lb1) 1

Total (for 1, 6 min, 1 over) 2

Fall: 1-2 (Atherton).

Bowling: Srinath 1-0-1-1.

Umpires: D J Constant and A A Jones.

Comments