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The Bulletin by Jenny Thompson
September 2, 2007
India played with such confidence at Headingley that you could be forgiven for forgetting they were 3-1 down heading into the match, with a series loss looming. Their top four brushed off any nerves to rise to the challenge, each posting half-centuries to set a commanding 325 that their bowlers were helping to defend by the time rain curtailed the match.
Paul Collingwood was left stranded on 91 but even despite his spirited recovery after an England slump, the result was always somewhat inevitable - with India in control throughout.
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly set the tone, with an opening stand of 116, before Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh added their own spice. The two Ss, Sachin and Sourav, applied seniority and savoir-faire, brushing off a stifling start - seven from the first five overs - to post fifty in the second five overs. India continued to caper along at the same rate, and better, until they were well and truly past the 300-mark.
Cue the bowlers: Ajit Agarkar dismissed Alastair Cook early, while Sourav Ganguly claimed the crucial two wickets, breaking Matt Prior and Ian Bell's stand of 90 - the only partnership of note - when he had Prior stumped for 46. Bell, coming in averaging 97.66 this series, continued his love affair with the Indian bowling, until Ganguly coolly extinguished his flame, and he flickered through. Zaheer Khan, meanwhile, had snapped up the out-of-sorts Kevin Pietersen cheaply, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni having a hand in these four wickets.
At 104 for 4, England were in trouble, and while they managed the Great Escape in Manchester last week, a repeat showing at Headingley was always unlikely, not least because of a much bigger asking-rate, and injury to the main star Bopara. And so it proved.
Collingwood had possibly misread the conditions in inserting India - the track certainly held no gremlins, though he said he wanted to exploit any swing from the earlier start - and England were without Andrew Flintoff, through a sore ankle. But to suggest that those factors were the overriding factors in India's victory would be to do the visitors a gross disservice.
That they breathe again is largely of their own making. Half-volley, on-drive, late cut, cut - the punches rained down from Tendulkar, including a Little-Masterclass in improvisation, with a series of sweeps to delight his many fans. His dominance freed up Ganguly to get into his own groove and together they set about troubling England.
Having offered one chance on 33 - thick-edging to a standing Matt Prior on 33 off Paul Collingwood's first over - Tendulkar finally fell for 71, feathering through on the back foot off Lewis.
Ganguly continued to offer his usual off-side boundaries, with the occasional pull, until he holed out to Alastair Cook's fine catch off Lewis on the deep midwicket boundary on 59. Gambhir and Yuvraj picked up where their seniors had let off, adding 96 in a third-wicket stand that proved equally useful, and was similarly easy on the eye.
England missed several chances: Ganguly inside-edging Anderson past Prior; while Collingwood had to watch three go begging before Anderson finally helped him open his account, holding on to Yuvraj's sky-er at long-on. Yuvraj, on his way to fifty, had two let-offs from edges behind: the first, off Monty Panesar, wasn't given; the second, off Ravi Bopara, wasn't held.
Bopara later left the field with a suspected broken thumb after dropping a caught and bowled chance. He returned to bat and played bravely for his 11 before he was Ramesh Powar's second victim. With his wicket, any glimmer for England was more or less extinguished.
Collingwood did his best to rekindle some fire, with his first one-day fifty as skipper, but even he sensed his knock was in a losing cause. Stuart Broad, last week's hero, had a day to forget, meanwhile - his ten overs for 84 the second-most expensive ever for an England bowler - and he followed up with 1.
India's fielding wasn't faultless - catches were spilled - but they had spannered England's reply so effectively that by the time they spluttered into life, they had already lost too much ground, not to mention the in-form Bell.
India will now head to the sixth match at The Oval with a spring in their step and the thought in their minds that they could still yet win this series.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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