February 3, 2002

England square series in Mumbai thriller

The shirtless Flintoff leads England's celebrations
Photo Reuters

England pulled off a thrilling win over India by just five runs under the floodlights at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Chasing 256 to win the game and the series, India fell short as disciplined bowling by England gradually increased the pressure on the batting side. Although neither team took the series, one-day cricket was certainly a winner at the end of a six-match tussle that was packed with entertainment.

It was an extraordinary match, with England apparently running away with it early in their innings thanks primarily to Marcus Trescothick, who won the man-of-the-match award for another scintillating innings of 95. But then Harbhajan Singh intervened to end England's dreams of an unassailable total, and Sourav Ganguly - as at Delhi - had almost won the game for India when his dismissal heralded an Indian collapse.

Nasser Hussain again won the toss (almost becoming a habit!) and England started badly. After Trescothick was missed at backward point off the first ball of the innings, Nick Knight fell to Javagal Srinath in the same over. But Trescothick and Hussain then accelerated so firmly that after ten overs England had reached 70 for one. Ajit Agarkar was expensive as he struggled with his line, but Ganguly took England's second wicket when Hussain pulled a long hop straight down Harbhajan's throat at deep mid-wicket.

Trescothick went to his 50 (off just 42 balls) with an imperious off-drive, a stroke he repeated regularly as he remained in full control of India's bowling. At 152 for two England were dreaming of 300-plus, but the loss of Michael Vaughan, stumped playing a needless swish at Harbhajan, led to a collapse. After Graham Thorpe had gone in the same way, Trescothick's effort was halted as he was caught and bowled by Harbhajan off the leading edge, playing against the spin.

Paul Collingwood clipped Harbhajan to mid-wicket, where Virender Sehwag took a fine catch diving forward. Another catch by Sehwag, this time at slip off Harbhajan, sent Ashley Giles back without scoring, and the "Turbanator" had taken four for two in seven balls. England had subsided from 153 for two to 174 for seven. It was left to Andrew Flintoff to carry them to respectability, with an innings of 40 in which he was well supported by Darren Gough before the Lancastrian was last out with England on 255.

Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar gave India their customary kick-start, but the stadium fell to an eerie silence as England made their first breakthrough, Gough finding Tendulkar's outside edge with extra bounce for James Foster to complete the dismissal. To England's relief Andrew Caddick, whose first spell was expensive, then accounted for Sehwag (31), who drove a swinging delivery to Thorpe at mid-on.

Ganguly and Dinesh Mongia then put on an unruffled half-century partnership which at the time looked crucial to India's hopes of victory. Ganguly was particularly strong on the off-side, and also hit Giles into the crowd over long-on. Like Harbhajan before him, Vaughan managed to extract turn and bounce from the Mumbai wicket, and got his just deserts when Mongia, on 35, came down the wicket and was beaten by the turn, allowing Foster to make a smart stumping.

With the required rate mounting, Ganguly (80) fell in bizarre fashion, when after missing a sweep at Giles he deflected the ball on to his stumps off the back of his bat. Ganguly walked off disconsolately and England knew they were back in business. Mohammad Kaif (20) hit across the line at Flintoff, skying a catch to Hussain at cover.

To England's dismay Vaughan then missed Ajay Ratra off Caddick at square leg. It wasn't expensive; Vaughan himself dismissed Ratra in his next over, as Ratra slogged him straight to Giles at deep mid-wicket. When Caddick got extra bounce to take Agarkar's edge, India were 224 for seven and England were scenting the kill.

Badani took a priceless boundary to leave India needing 20 off 16 balls; Harbhajan perished for five, flailing at Flintoff. With six needed off three balls Kumble, the non-striker, was run out by Flintoff following through as Kumble attempted a sharp single. Flintoff finished it by bowling Srinath with his next ball, and England had won a real nail-biter to square an enthralling series.