Indians ease to first win of tough tour
Indians 238 for 4 (Kohli 71, Rohit 61*, Parthiv 55) beat Sussex 236 (Machan 56, Brown 48, RP Singh 4 for 45) by 6 wickets (D/L method)
Forty-five days into this most arduous of tours, the Indians secured their maiden victory. Half-centuries from Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel and a four-wicket haul from RP Singh helped them to a six-wicket win over a Sussex side missing several of its senior players. Rain breaks revised the target to 235, and the Indians won with 4.1 overs to spare.
The win will be a relief to MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher, who had run out of reasons trying to explain India's sudden slump to a demanding media. Today, they were helped by the infusion of some freshness in the squad - the likes of Kohli, Parthiv and Rohit, who weren't at the receiving end of England's ruthless domination in the Tests.
Dhoni rushed midway through the warm-up routine in the morning for the toss and showed no hesitation asking Sussex to bat under cloudy conditions. By the time the openers, Sachin Tendulkar and Parthiv, walked in to bat for the chase, the County ground was bathed in sunshine. And the pitch was flat.
Tendulkar didn't face the local tearaway Amjad Khan during his stay at all. Instead, he happily dealt with the left-armer Naved Arif who faltered in his lines. Trying for pace Arif pitched short and angled wide off the off stump but Tendulkar instantly upper cut him for four. His best shot came in Arif's third over, when he played a powerful drive that sliced through a thick off-side field manned by a gully, point, cover, silly mid-off and mid-off. Unfortunately, after having flicked Chris Liddle, who replaced Arif, for another four, Tendulkar tried to clear mid-off but failed and was caught.
By then, Parthiv, who was overwhelmed by Amjad's pace and movement in the early overs - he was forced to replace a broken bat as he tried to dig out a yorker - had gradually started to find his rhythm against the medium-pace duo of Liddle and Kirk Wernars. He played well on both sides against the slower pace and cut Wernars to the point boundary. He reached his half-century with a pull that got him a single, but mis-read the length and spin of Chris Nash's first delivery, his off bail displaced. If Gautam Gambhir, who did some light jogging with a strained face during the lunch break, fails to take field during the ODI series, Parthiv is a contender and would want to show a more settled technique in tomorrow's match against Kent.
If anybody showed assurance, it was the pair of Kohli and Rohit. Both played with a straight bat and without any fuss. They reached their teens by running hard singles and then cleared the boundaries with ease as Sussex tried to lure them by using spinners at both ends. Virat looked solid in defence, and when he was offered width by Liddle he pulled him hard for an easy four, his first. He repeated the same stroke with an identical result when Liddle repeated the mistake.
Rohit cut one hard between gully and point for his first four against Will Beer, who posed no hurdles for the Indians. When Nash challenged him with flight, he took the offer and cleared the long-off boundary, his team's first six.
In their effort to post a competitive target, the Sussex middle order regrouped after the top order faltered in the morning when play was interrupted by rain on a couple of occasions. The lights came on immediately after the first over as Brighton woke up under a huge blanket of dark cloud and intermittent drizzle. The first stoppage occured after 2.1 overs and play was interrupted again four overs later by a thin drizzle.
Luke Wells walked off early, edging to Dhoni off Praveen Kumar. Lou Vincent, the former New Zealand batsman, hit a muscular six, the first of the day, over deep square leg but then played casually against RP's angled delivery, giving Dhoni his second catch.
On resumption, Chris Nash, the Sussex captain, took a fancy to Munaf Patel, hitting couple of straight fours, but seemed desperate to charge every ball and paid the price when he cut RP straight to Kohli at point. After 12 overs Sussex were 58 for 3, but Joe Gatting ensured the hosts didn't lose the plot so easily.
He opened his account with a neat, square-driven four off RP. He then took advantage of the short straight boundaries by lofting Munaf, who had an ordinary day, over mid-off for a one-bounce four. Gatting followed up, slogging Munaf over the deep square leg; the ball bounced off the roof of the marquee tent into the first story of the neighbouring apartment building.
The introduction of R Ashwin, though, immediately put doubts in Gatting's mind as he tried to sweep the offspinner against the spin and was bowled. It was the turn of Matt Machan to take over from Gatting and he played resolutely in the middle overs. His 65-run stand with Ben Brown lent respectability to the Sussex score. Machan was the top-scorer with 56 and Brown was unlucky to miss his own fifty by two runs.
But the partnership didn't hurt the Indians, who enjoyed the better of the battle, as the Sussex batsmen increasingly found it hard to play boldly and take chances.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo