England v India, 7th ODI, Lord's September 8, 2007

Weaknesses catch up with India



Sourav Ganguly, in the most torturous innings all summer, flayed as if in blindfolds © Getty Images

It was a struggle to get out of St. Johns Wood station this morning, with a frenetic scramble for tickets clogging Wellington Road. Spectators were willing to pay ten times the actual amount and Lord's was the place to be in London.

All the excitement culminated in the most anti-climactic end to a competitive series. The one-sided contest seemed even more flat after the humdinger at The Oval. The freedom and expression that the teams displayed on Wednesday was rarely seen; instead there was attrition, a feature typical of when too much is at stake. Suddenly the teams appeared to have woken up to how big the prize was.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this forgettable decider, let's get the big picture out of the way. England were the better side through the series and deserved winners. They were more consistent with the bat, aggressive with the ball, and far more athletic on the field. India played an important part in converting a long series into a cracking one but their weaknesses - especially in the field - were bound to be exploited over seven matches.

Now to two issues that were the talking points of the match. Today's was the sort of toss that's supposed to be a "good one to lose". Rahul Dravid won it and batted but soon found out that bowling might have been a better option. In similar conditions at Southampton and Edgbaston he'd chosen to bowl but realised that batting might have been better. The problem may lie with his tendency to win tosses but with seven batsmen you'd expect to counter conditions and put up a decent score.

India's problem might have arisen from a need to change their mindset - and the eventual failure to do so. They needed to switch from the throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-everything approach that was on display at The Oval to a knuckle-down-and-get-a-competitive-score here. Instead Sourav Ganguly, in the most torturous innings all summer, flayed as if in blindfolds and the rest attempted too much too early. A more grafted approach could have got them to 240, a total which could have proved tricky later in the day.

The second point of contention needs to be taken more seriously. Sachin Tendulkar, for the third time on this tour, was at the receiving end of a contentious decision. Actually it was quite a howler. It happened at Bristol, when he was sawn off on 99, and it happened here, at a critical juncture of a vital match. He'd just backed away and walloped Andrew Flintoff over cover, not once but twice, and promised more. He'd got his eye in and gauged the pitch. And then Aleem Dar, probably going on sound rather than sight, gave him caught behind when the bat had merely clipped the pad. Of course Dar is human, like the rest of us, but was this the time to reiterate that truism?

It was a point from which India never recovered. England gathered momentum and didn't look back. Chasing 187 was going to be tricky at the most and when Kevin Pietersen, for the first time all series, started reading Piyush Chawla's legbreaks it was time to draw the curtains. India's fielding inadequacies came to the fore and their part-timers weren't effective. If this was the one match you watched in the series, you'd have wondered how India had managed to win three games before today. Credit to India for overcoming their weaknesses to setup a classic finish but the weaknesses were so evident that they ultimately caught up.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo