England toast Irani after India go down by 64 runs
India have been beaten for the first time in the NatWest Series, after England completed an emphatic 64-run victory at The AMP Oval in the dress rehearsal for Saturday's final at Lord's. Ronnie Irani was made Man of the Match after adding five Indian wickets to his first half-century in one-day internationals. For good measure he also took the catch which completed England's win.
Needing to score at a shade over seven an over to win a game reduced by rain to 32 overs a side, India had started confidently. Sehwag, perhaps lucky to survive a caught behind appeal in Gough's second over, hit Tudor for 15 in an over, including a brace of off-side fours and a hooked six. Flintoff's first ball was whipped through square leg with astonishing power. To England's huge relief Sehwag was caught behind in Irani's first over. His 46 had come off a mere 41 balls.
Ganguly had already departed in bizarre fashion, stepping away to drive Tudor, and playing well away from his body to give Flintoff a straightforward slip catch. After promising a productive stand with Tendulkar, Laxman was caught at mid-off, pulling too soon at Collingwood. Yuvraj was out to an extraordinary stumping, after a wide from Irani was gathered by the excellent Stewart, who waited for Yuvraj to lift his foot before taking off the bails. To say it was a hairline decision by third umpire Mallender would be putting it mildly; it required several minutes' deliberation.
Although Tendulkar raised the tempo with three boundaries in an over off Flintoff, Irani quickly struck again, bowling Kaif between bat and pad. Ratra, playing back, was caught by Stewart for just two. When Agarkar clipped his second ball to Collingwood, Irani had five and his joy was unconfined. Not since Mike Hendrick against Australia in August 1980 had an England bowler taken five wickets at The Oval, and Irani's five for 26 bettered even Hendrick's figures.
To a massive roar from the now near-capacity Oval crowd, Hoggard made the decisive breakthrough when Tendulkar was caught behind. After that it was academic; Gough held Khan at mid-off as he drove at Flintoff, although a limping Kumble (who needed Ratra to run for him) shared a defiant and entertaining last-wicket stand with Nehra before he swung Tudor to the ubiquitous Irani at long-on.
Earlier, Ganguly had made some shrewd bowling changes after putting England in. Kumble, brought on first change, yorked Trescothick with his first ball. Yuvraj Singh accounted for Knight, who had begun aggressively but top-edged a sweep for Kaif to take a brilliant, diving catch running round from square leg. Enter Flintoff, who gave England the mid-air refuelling they needed. Highlights included a mid-wicket six off Kumble, and a straight drive so fierce that Sehwag, the bowler, covered his head as it passed him. Agarkar was smashed through mid-wicket, extra cover and square leg, Ganguly behind cover point.
Irani, dropped on 20 by Kaif off Yuvraj, found himself playing a supporting role. It ended when Flintoff hoisted Agarkar high to mid-wicket, where Nehra took a steepler with calm assurance. Flintoff's 51 came off 38 balls, with a six and six fours. Vaughan, after a mid-wicket four off Agarkar, should have been caught there by Ganguly in the same bowler's next over. India missed another chance when Ratra failed to stump Irani as he charged Yuvraj; the batsman celebrated with six over long-off. Vaughan, having just clipped Khan for a remarkable six behind square leg, fell caught by Yuvraj at third man.
Irani, after completing his first ODI 50 off 53 balls, was bowled swinging across the line at Kumble. In the last-minute rush Nehra bowled Collingwood in similar fashion, and Hussain hit Khan down Kaif's throat at long-on. Stewart was out first ball, bowled as he tried to guide a straight ball from Khan to third man, but Gough finished the innings in characteristically exuberant style, hitting the last ball for six over mid-wicket. It looked a respectable total; in the event it was comfortably enough.