England v India, 3rd ODI, Edgbaston August 27, 2007

Bell upstages 'home' crowd



'Are you sure we're at Edgbaston?' © Getty Images

The most impressive part of England's performance today was that they overcame a home disadvantage. Edgbaston, a ground renowned for its partisan English supporters, transformed itself into little India with large sections of blue dominating the stands. Conches, bugles, flags, banners ... this was an away game for England in every sense.

Ian Bell, a Warwickshire local, might have felt out of place. Here he was, striking the dangerous legspin of Piyush Chawla for a sensational straight hit - only to be greeted by lukewarm applause. Imagine his mortification when the Eric Hollies stand, a bastion of the Barmy Army, was resonating with Chak de India. As if two Indian spinners causing problems wasn't enough, England were made to feel as if they were in Mohali.

Did it feel like a home away from home? "Possibly at times," said Bell in what must go down as the under-statement of the series. "It was a great atmosphere to play cricket, in front of a packed house. Good Indian side and a full house it was really a nice feeling to get a Man of the Match at the home ground." Bell is a soft-spoken chap but that must roughly translate to: 'I was shocked'. But it felt great to knock the stuffing out of them. And his 79, two catches and a run-out was a big factor.

England's captain Paul Collingwood couldn't have had it easy at the start. The medical staff had decided to "err on the side of caution" with respect to Andrew Flintoff and Dimitri Mascarenhas, the star of the show at Bristol, injured his thumb while warming up. Further, he lost the toss. But England have been inserted at Edgbaston before (remember the Ashes in 2005?) and responded in style. He ended the day comparing the performance to the one they had put in at the Rose Bowl, an effort which he termed "near perfect".

"The openers came in and gave us a good start and then the bowlers also delivered," he said. "It did get difficult against spinners with the ball stopping a bit, but to get 280 [sic] was in itself incredible. We've scored almost 300 every time, which proves that we are improving."

Ramesh Powar must have broken a new barrier today when one of his deliveries clocked 42mph. It's a surprise that India got through their overs in quick time, what with Powar's lobs taking an age to get to the other end

Chris Tremlett's comeback illustrated England's tenacious performance. After being pounded at Bristol (0 for 73) and carted around in his first spell here - leaking 20 in his first two overs - he returned to remove Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, the two most important wickets of the day.

"You've seen today that he's got the character to bounce back," said Collingwood. "We have a lot of faith in him. He's quite relaxed to be honest. He is quite laid-back and he showed it in the Test matches. He's a huge guy bowling with a lot of aggression at times but got the important wickets."

Facing spin in the middle overs is a bugbear. Chawla arrived with his quiver of legbreaks, googlies and top-spinners and engineered the dismissal of the series, bamboozling Kevin Pietersen for the second match in a row. On a ground that has a stand named after Eric Hollies, and on a day when Donald Bradman was born, Chawla's googlies did a lot of talking.

Ramesh Powar must have broken a new barrier today when one of his deliveries clocked 42mph. It's a surprise that India got through their overs in quick time, what with Powar's lobs taking an age to get to the other end, but he troubled them with variation.

So Bell is maturing with every match - Dravid spoke about how England's decision to persevere with him at No. 3 was paying off - Chawla is growing in confidence and Collingwood is growing as a leader. Powar is no doubt growing. England are talking about injecting fearlessness into their bloodstream and India are talking of positives. Someone should tell them that using words like "inject" and "positives" in a span of a few minutes is not advisable.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo