India edge home in humdinger
A full house at Bristol were handed an explosive match, India levelling the one-day series with a nine-run victory at Bristol as 649 runs flowed in ideal conditions. The win was set-up by the batsmen, as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid produced flamboyant 90s, and then India 's spinners took vital wickets. Piyush Chawla, enhancing his growing reputation with three key wickets, and Ramesh Powar removed England's four middle-order big-guns, but Dimitri Mascarenhas, with a 36-ball maiden ODI fifty, and Stuart Broad kept India working until the end.
Getting so close showed how vital India's overs of spin were. The teams went in opposite directions with their selections, England dropping Monty Panesar and India strengthening their bowling attack with Powar.
With his second ball Chawla beat Kevin Pietersen's forward prod with a straight ball and later removed Paul Collingwood with his googly, a delivery which has been good enough for Tendulkar in the past. Each wicket meant England had to rebuild and with an asking rate constantly over six-an-over they were always under pressure. Andrew Flintoff, seven balls into his first international innings since the World Cup, felt the need to target the stands and picked out deep midwicket off Powar.
England began their pursuit of what would have been a record chase in positive style. Whereas at the Rose Bowl Alastair Cook and Matt Prior took their time, with 330 facing them they knew making the most of the fielding restrictions was vital. Prior was dropped at slip by Sourav Ganguly on eight - the first of India's many lapses - but in fairness to Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni feigned to go for the catch and put off his slip fielder. Prior then showed his true ability with a series of strong cover drives.
Ajit Agarkar received most of the punishment, his first four overs costing 41 as his gentle outswing was easily dispatched. Prior was offered another life, top-edging a Patel no-ball to midwicket, but fell shortly afterwards when a manufactured swipe went steepling to Dravid. There was time for the batsmen to cross and next ball Cook edged a good offcutter low to Dhoni. In two balls India had control again, but, as often in the past, did their best to let it go.
Ian Bell, on one, was dropped by Powar at third man - who hardly raises the standard of India 's fielding - then a manic couple of moments included two chances against Pietersen in one Ganguly over. Firstly, Dhoni couldn't pouch a thin edge and two balls later Ganguly himself couldn't hold on to a return chance as Pietersen punched off the back foot. Chawla, not afraid to flight the ball, turned the game back India's way with the scalps of Pietersen and Collingwood before adding Bell, who had played well for 64, as a third wicket.
England continued to fight but eventually the lower order had been left with too much to do, although Mascarenhas's five sixes of varying distance hinted at a miraculous turnaround. He came in with 110 needed off 12.1 overs, but added 59 in seven overs with Broad. Even when RP Singh had him caught at midwicket, England kept swinging hard with Broad taking 20 off the last over.
India's total could have been higher if Flintoff hadn't collected a career-best 5 for 56, despite suffering pain behind his right knee after crashing into an advertising board. Dravid's innings was faultless as he continually picked the gaps, taking 63 balls to reach 92, his highest score against England in ODIs, while India added 93 in the final 10 overs. Following the criticism he received for pedestrian batting at other stages of the tour it was a strong response from the Indian captain.
After playing with great restraint during the Test series - and being tied down in the first ODI at The Rose Bowl - Tendulkar allowed himself more freedom. His fifty came off 56 balls and he twice swept Mascarenhas to the boundary before dispatching the struggling Chris Tremlett high over long-off for six. He offered one tough chance, on 57, when Tremlett failed to hold a drive a mid-off.
But a bout of cramp in his hand halted his momentum and Collingwood reacted swiftly by recalling Flintoff. The move paid off as Tendulkar fended at a rapid bouncer. However, replays showed the ball took arm-guard rather than glove as a century continued to elude him. It was the second 99 Tendulkar has made in ODIs on tour, following the near-miss against South Africa, at Stormont, in July. There is one key difference, though. That day India lost, this time they have come out on top and the series is all square heading to Birmingham with the promise of more thrills to come.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo