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February 1, 2002
It was a humdinger of a match at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi. It all boiled down to the final ball and only a fantastic save at the cover point fence ensured that England won the one-dayer by two runs. The Indians had been agonisingly close to sealing the series but their hopes were finally doused.
Agarkar nearly pulled off a miraculous last ball win for India without much support from his partners. Anil Kumble's dismissal epitomised the dismal batting effort by the senior players in the side. When the situation demanded a cool head, Kumble threw it all away, playing a rank bad shot to be bowled. I think that Kumble's downfall cost India the match. Five of the Indian batsmen gifted their wickets to left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, whose bowling was not as menacing as his final figures suggested.
Whenever India chases a stiff target, they obviously look to Tendulkar to show the way. It is as true as broad daylight that the Indian batting revolves around the little master. Ganguly is not back to his best, and is finding it difficult to keep the momentum going during the initial phase of his innings. On Thursday, there were shades of the Ganguly we all have come to respect when he played a few scintillating shots off Giles. The Indian skipper, though, failed to stay till the end and see India through to victory.
Mohammad Kaif, for his part, gave enough evidence of his talent and temperament for the shorter version of the game. The same, though, could not be said of young off-spinner Sarandeep Singh and there was no denying the fact that India missed the services of Harbhajan Singh at the Kotla.
What Delhi also proved is that there has to be all-round improvement in the planning as well as execution, if India are to seal the series.
The England game plan, meanwhile, clearly revolved around taking quick singles, knowing, as they did only too well, the limitations of the Indian ground fielding. Nick Knight played a brilliant hand and was well supported by Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain. As I have been writing in my columns, it is important for Andrew Flintoff to contribute a few valuable runs to the English cause. The beefy all-rounder's explosive half century played a major part in the English win.
At the back of their mind, however, would be the thought that Sachin Tendulkar would be hoping to please his home crowd.
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