India outpace England in spectacular run chase
India have beaten England by six wickets with seven balls to spare in the second match of the NatWest triangular series at Lord's. A fifth-wicket partnership of 131 between Rahul Dravid and Man-of-the-Match Yuvraj Singh held the key to India's win at the end of an immensely entertaining day. Bat held sway over ball almost throughout, with Virender Sehwag and Marcus Trescothick also playing starring roles.
After England had posted 271, India began their reply in fine style, with Hoggard, shorn of rhythm, taken by Sehwag and Ganguly for 19 off his first two overs. Although Kirtley was more economical at the outset, he couldn't contain Sehwag either, as the flamboyant Indian opener followed a mid-wicket four with two backward of point. India's fifty came up off as many balls. more quickly than England's, and Hoggard was taken off after conceding 32 runs in his first four overs.
Ganguly had a life on 16, when Thorpe couldn't quite hold on to a fierce drive at short extra cover, but there was no stopping Sehwag as Flintoff was dismissed with awesome ease through mid-wicket. With India's grip on the game tightening by the over, Kirtley was dispatched through backward point by Sehwag and long-off, fiercely, by Ganguly. Sehwag completed a magnificent 50 by clattering Flintoff through the covers. When Giles replaced Kirtley at the nursery end, his first ball was dispatched magnificently by Sehwag into the Compton stand for six. Four more off Flintoff raised India's hundred from just 88 balls.
Irani had Sehwag missed on 70 in his first over, a sharp, low but catchable chance to the diving Collingwood at backward point. Fortunately for Collingwood it didn't matter; in the next over Sehwag hit Giles high to deep mid-wicket, where Trescothick did marvellously well to take a running catch close to the rope. Sehwag's 71 had come off just 65 balls, with a six and nine fours, and he and Ganguly had put India on course for victory.
Mongia was bowled for just one, playing crookedly at Giles, bringing in Sachin Tendulkar to the kind of ovation he is used to at home. But the little master was unusually subdued, making just one from nine balls before Irani trapped him lbw hitting across the line. India had lost three wickets for nine runs in 31 balls. England's hopes were raised further when Kirtley took a truly breathtaking catch to dismiss the Indian captain. Ganguly had come down the wicket to hit Giles wide of mid-on, from where Kirtley ran round to take a thrilling, sprawling catch in the fingertips of his left hand. If a better catch has been taken in the deep in any form of cricket, I'm not sure that I've seen it.
Dravid was joined by Yuvraj Singh, who traced Irani delightfully through the covers to reassert India's challenge. Dravid was missed on 24 by Stewart off the returning Hoggard - a low, diving effort which Stewart couldn't quite hold in his right hand. Yuvraj then brought up the 200 with a drive so fierce that hoggard was wise to take evasive action. Despite persevering bowling from England, Yuvraj and Dravid guided India inexorably towards their target.
After Yuvraj completed an excellent 50 off 54 balls, Dravid reached the landmark with a pulled boundary off Flintoff. With the rate mounting Dravid cut loose with a stunning array of strokes to keep India in touch, and when he clouted Hoggard through extra cover in the penultimate over, the writing was on the wall for England. The last ball of the over (a no-ball) was hit to long-off for the single India needed to take the match.
The way England batted in the first half of their innings, they would have been disappointed not to set India a target in excess of 300. In the first over, bowled by Zaheer Khan, Trescothick took two behind square leg and four down the hill to the extra cover boundary. He then hit Agarkar's first two balls imperiously for off-side boundaries, before pushing Khan backward of cover point with the same result.
After the fifty came up in the tenth over Knight, hesitant at the outset, cast off the shackles, lacing Agarkar first through extra cover and then straight for boundaries. With England relishing the field restrictions to the tune of more than six an over, a double change was inevitable. It came in the form of Harbhajan at the pavilion end, whom Knight immediately swept to the rope backward of square leg. Kumble replaced Agarkar at the nursery end, and this time Trescothick cashed in with four through extra cover.
It took a run-out to part the two openers, when Trescothick played Kumble out to Tendulkar at deep mid-wicket. Knight called for a doubful second run and was narrowly beaten by a fine throw to the bowler's end. England were 86 for one, with Knight gone for 31. After the helmetless Hussain had flirted with disaster with an airborne chip to extra cover off Kumble, the rampant Trescothick went through to an excellent 50 off 48 balls. A swept boundary followed off Harbhajan, bisecting the two fielders on the mid-wicket boundary. Another single brought up England's hundred off 103 balls in the 17th.
The introduction of Yuvraj prompted the first six of the day, swung gleefully into the mound stand by Trescothick. But it was the last hurrah for the Somerset left-hander, who got a thin edge to Dravid as he tried to steer Ganguly to third man. Trescothick had made 86 off just 78 balls with nine fours as well as the six.
The in-form Flintoff, promoted to number four, immediately swung his former Lancashire team-mate through mid-wicket. When Harbhajan returned, a reverse sweep to the rope gave Hussain four more, and when Harbhajan over-compensated a wide went for four more to fine leg. Impishly, Hussain reverse-swept to the rope again and another over had gone for 15 runs. As Ganguly switched ends Flintoff smote him successively to the rope at mid-wicket and deep extra cover. With England still scoring at close to a run a ball, Flintoff's innings ended with the return of Yuvraj Singh driving to short extra for Mongia to take a smart catch.
Hussain and Thorpe exchanged regular singles, one of which completed the captain's 50. After a perfectly-placed chip through mid-wicket, Thorpe was caught by Sehwag at backward point off Yuvraj. As the tempo slowed, Hussain charged down the wicket to play a dreadful swish at Yuvraj and was stumped by the proverbial yard.
With the initiative slipping away from England, Stewart grasped the nettle by hitting Yuvraj back over his head for four. When Zaheer returned Stewart swatted him to the Grand Stand boundary before bring up the 250 with a single to mid-off. Irani sacrificed his wicket in the quest for quick runs, but Collingwood briefly made his presence felt at the eleventh hour, whipping Zaheer delightfully through mid-wicket.
Agarkar and Zaheer both bowled well at the death, with a succession of yorkers, and Collingwood perished caught behind off a skier. In the end England had fewer runs than they had hoped for at the half-way stage of their innings, and not quite enough to win a scintillating match.