January 22, 2002

Disciplined England triumph in tense Cuttack encounter

India wilted under sustained England pressure in the field as the tourists successfully defended a total of 250 in the second one-day international. From the seemingly comfortable heights of 99 for two, the hosts subsided to 234 all out as England won by 16 runs to level the six-match series at one-all. Paul Collingwood was made man-of-the-match for his unbeaten 71, which was the highest score of the day.

Sourav Ganguly again won the toss and asked England to bat in the hope of extracting some morning moisture. In the event they began steadily, posting 75 for the loss of both openers in the first 15 overs. Marcus Trescothick, the hero at Kolkata, took two boundaries before Ajit Agarkar made the first breakthrough. Trescothick was fractionally late on a pull, giving Dinesh Mongia time to run behind the square leg umpire to take a straightforward catch.

Nasser Hussain joined Nick Knight, and well-judged running between the right and left-handers kept the scoreboard ticking over. Hussain found the mid-wicket fence by pulling a marginally short ball from Agarkar. But it was the pull that lost England their second wicket, as Knight hit Srinath straight to Harbhajan Singh at deep mid-wicket.

Hussain was missed on 36 as he edged Ganguly and Ajay Ratra couldn't hang on to a thickish edge behind the stumps. The England captain then swept Harbhajan behind square to bring up the tourists' hundred, and Michael Vaughan caught the mood next ball by pulling Ganguly handsomely over mid-wicket. After surviving a close run-out decision, Hussain inexplicably lost patience against Ganguly, holing out to Agarkar at deep mid-on. Vaughan restored the momentum with a handsome boundary through extra cover.

Vaughan went to his half century (59 balls, 4 fours), with a sweep off Sachin Tendulkar, and Collingwood used his feet to clip Anil Kumble wide of mid-on for his second boundary. The 36th over went for ten runs, six of them coming off the first ball as Collingwood swung Tendulkar to square leg where Harbhajan, having caught the ball just inside the boundary, was unable to release it as he stepped back on to the rope.

Vaughan was then needlessly run out after miscuing a reverse sweep. As the ball went towards square-leg he hesitated when there should have been a straightforward single, and was left short of his ground at the bowler's end. Andy Flintoff followed for five, swinging across a full-length ball from Harbhajan to lose his off stump. Kumble then bowled Ben Hollioake through the gate, leaving England on 192 for six and in danger of squandering their solid start. Amid the adversity Collingwood was still able to reach his 50 in style, swinging Kumble over mid-wicket. Following up with a mid-wicket six off Agarkar, the Durham all-rounder went on to see England through to the 250 mark, assisted by Jeremy Snape and then James Foster.

India made a perfect start to the chase as Ganguly dispatched Darren Gough twice to the backward point boundary in the first over. A flashing square drive off Matthew Hoggard took Tendulkar off the mark in the second. It was a ball of fuller length from Hoggard that made the breakthrough as Ganguly, with minimal foot movement, edged a straightforward catch to Knight at second slip. But India kept up the momentum as Tendulkar took boundaries through mid-wicket off Hoggard, then through extra-cover and back down the ground off Gough, who made way for Flintoff after four overs.

Hussain constantly shuffled his attack, with Snape coming on in the 19th over and England increasingly desperate for a breakthrough. It came fortuitously when Tendulkar was run out by a deflection, Hollioake getting a fingertip to a drive by Mongia which hit the stumps with Tendulkar, backing up, stranded yards out of his ground.

England broke through again when Laxman failed to make his ground as he attempted a single after Mongia had clipped the ball to Collingwood at backward-point. Virender Sehwag then failed to get on top of a pull, Knight taking a good, tumbling catch at short mid-wicket. At 121 for four India were wobbling. They had a let-off when Badani was missed by Foster, who was standing up to Collingwood and couldn't gather cleanly as Badani went down the track.

Foster soon redeemed himself by playing a key role in yet another run-out. Mongia, trying for a second to Matthew Hoggard at long leg, failed to ground his bat as Foster took the return one-handed to break the wicket with milli-seconds to spare. Hollioake struck next, as Badani skied a slower ball to wide mid-on, where Flintoff jubilantly held the catch.

A double bowling change led to more England euphoria as Flintoff trapped Ratra in front for 30 with the first ball of his new spell. Harbhajan immediately swung the Lancastrian to the fence at long-on, but India descended further into the mire as Snape trapped him lbw sweeping. Agarkar and Kumble batted sensibly to keep flickering Indian hopes alive, but with four overs remaining and India's last two wickets still needing 30, Hussain turned to Gough. The Yorkshireman did the trick for his skipper with his 150th wicket in one-day internationals; Kumble slogged at a slower ball and Collingwood did wonderfully well to take a running catch over his shoulder at mid-wicket.

Gough eventually finished it in the 49th over as Agarkar got a thin edge to Foster. England had triumphed amid the tension, and the series is still very much alive.