June 26, 2002

Indians win battle of the openers

India ran into some timely form ahead of the forthcoming NatWest triangular series against England and Sri Lanka with a 54-run win over Leicestershire at Grace Road. In a brisk-scoring encounter, Leicestershire couldn't match the Indians' total of 315 despite being given an excellent start by Trevor Ward and Iain Sutcliffe.

An explosive opening partnership of 132 from Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag laid the foundations for the victory. If Sehwag's 98 was the more substantial knock (his runs came off 85 balls, with three sixes and nine fours), even he was outshone in the early stages by his captain. Ganguly made 68 off just 43 balls (two sixes, twelve fours) before he was caught at mid-on off Carl Crowe.

Sehwag eventually ran himself out looking for a single to third man, and the innings never really regained its momentum, although young Mohammad Kaif shepherded the tail with a useful 52. Ajit Agarkar helped Kaif add 63 before slicing Matthew Whiley to third man, and Kaif was then caught at mid-on off Jamie Grove.

When Leicestershire replied, their opening pair bravely attempted to match their Indian counterparts. Ward and Sutcliffe put on 136 before Sutcliffe was run out for 50 (59 balls, 4 fours). Darren Stevens soon followed, and once Ward had fallen for 95 (110 balls, 3 sixes, 8 fours) a Leicestershire win always looked a tall order.

Yuvraj Singh (three for 48) was India's most successful bowler, and despite contributions from Darren Maddy (30) Grant Flower (36) and Rob Cunliffe (28), the hosts were always falling behind the clock and the Indians triumphed comfortably at the death. After a tight win at Hove and defeat at Canterbury, it's a win that will do much to lift their spirits for the sterner tasks ahead.