ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v England, World Cup 2011, Group B, Bangalore

India exposed in flawed thriller

The tied match was just what the World Cup needed, but the exciting finish cannot gloss over what was an embarrassing performance by India in the field

Sambit Bal at the Chinnaswamy Stadium

February 27, 2011

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Zaheer Khan leaps for joy after dismissing Andrew Strauss, India v England, World Cup, Group B, Bangalore, February 27, 2011
It was only after Zaheer Khan's double strike in the 43rd over that India showed some zest in the field © AFP
Related Links
Report : Epic encounter ends in thrilling tie
Players/Officials: MS Dhoni
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: England | India

First things first. The fans and the organisers must give thanks to India and England for conspiring to produce an extraordinary finish that has ignited the World Cup after ten days of relative torpor. Six hundred and seventy six runs, 18 wickets and a heart-stopping tie ensure that the match will linger in the memory of anyone present. But in the cold light of cricket logic, the reverse of what is normally said of a tie will apply to this match: the tie was a fair result because neither team deserved to win.

The outcome would have left both teams with both relief and regret. India would be relieved because they found their way back into a match which seemed hopelessly lost, and then did not concede more than a single off the last ball after the first five of the final over had gone for 12. But how did they let England amble to a match-winning position in the first place, after scoring 338? And how did they manage to concede 28 to the tailenders in the last two overs after knocking over four wickets for 25 runs in the batting Powerplay?

England would be mightily relieved after the Powerplay choke had left them with 42 to get off 24 balls with all their specialist batsmen gone, and they would take overall satisfaction from constructing such an epic chase. But just how did they manage to botch it from 278 for 2 with 61 needed off 54 balls?

The match featured some splendid performances, and in many ways those mirrored each other. There were polished and controlled hundreds from Sachin Tendulkar, the game's enduring icon, and Andrew Strauss, who has found his batting mojo in this form of the game in the second half of his career; there was outstanding bowling from Tim Bresnan, which was responsible for keeping India down to 338, if such a thing can be said, and there were three skillful and cunning overs from Zaheer Khan that brought India back into the game. There were strong support acts from the No. 4 batsmen - Yuvraj Singh and Ian Bell - and both were dismissed at crucial junctures which led to the innings dipping into decline.

But the enduring image of the match would be the last-over six from Ajmal Shehzad, hit so cleanly and with such majesty that it might have come from the middle of Tendulkar's bat. For that, and for mounting such an improbable chase with such aplomb for the large part of the innings, England would take more from the match than their fancied rivals. India were expected to bat big; England, despite botching up the chase, surpassed expectations.

Their one-day team was annihilated when they toured India the last time. Their progress since then was never doubted, and with this, they have served notice: while the bowling worries remain, with the bat, they can chase.

India have known even before a ball had been bowled in this World Cup that whatever success they were to achieve they had to do it off their bat. But on Sunday night, they were served the starkest possible reminder that whatever they can do with bat can be easily lost on the field. The track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was, according to Strauss, unbelievably flat and MS Dhoni said it got even better during the second innings. Still, the frightening aspect from the Indian point of view was not merely that England almost chased their total down, but how easily they did it till the 43rd over.

The format of this World Cup has been designed to insure them against the embarrassment of an early exit, but for the most part, their performance in defending a total never chased even on the flattest and deadest Indian pitches - the highest successful run chase on Indian soil is 325 by India against West Indies in 2002 - was an epic embarrassment in its own right: it has swiftly shorn them of their aura, and the tag of the favourites.

Every time they bat first, this question will haunt their batsmen: just how much is safe enough? Nine days ago, it was only the margin of victory that muted the questions about their ability with ball after Bangladesh had taken 280 runs off them in the World Cup opener, but so lacking in energy and spirit were they on the field on Sunday that a win for them would have been a travesty.

It was only after the 43rd over, when Zaheer produced two wickets in two balls, that the Indian fielding acquired a sense of urgency and charge. Suddenly the fielders in the ring attacked the ball, a couple of diving stops were made, and outfielders sprang to life. Till then infielders had hung back and allowed the batsmen to stroll singles (England scored 134 of them compared to India's 107) and fielders in the deep acted as perfect escort services to the fence. Their outcricket made India's meagre bowling resources look even thinner.

In their first warm-up match, their bowlers had defended 213 against Australia on the same square. But the ball spat and turned then. The curator had since been nudged to flatten it out, and on the belter that was laid out, the first part went to script for India. But the second provided glimpses of what lies ahead. Apart from Zaheer in those Powerplay overs, no bowler ever came close to being able to apply pressure; Harbhajan Singh was the most economical, but he was picked off with ease and conceded 10 runs in the crucial 46th over, and while Piyush Chawla had two wickets, he conceded the maximum boundaries: five fours and three sixes. The lack of skill from the bowlers was merely exacerbated by apologetic fielding.

Dhoni sounded nearly resigned to the ineptitude in the field. "We could have defended this total if we had a better fielding side," he said, "but we have to make do with what we have got." But if this is the best they can put up, their batsmen would have to bat out of their skin for the rest of the tournament. Never has a team so light in bowling and so heavy on its feet won a World Cup.

But from a broader perspective, this was the match the World Cup needed. However flawed, it was highly entertaining: it had twists and turns; big hitting and lots of wickets; drama and suspense; and the rarest of results. The stadium was a spectacle, and the crowd, however partisan, went back with a match to remember. Dhaka gave the tournament a passionate start, Bangalore has brought it alive.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 359 
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Posted by Anuj on (March 2, 2011, 11:59 GMT)

The bigger issues in this game was the unimaginative captaincy. Strauss and Bell were able to get a boundary every over and Dhoni was not able to set fields to protect either singles or the boundaries. If the singles had been dried up they might have had to take more risks to keep up with the ask.

Posted by Andrew on (March 2, 2011, 6:15 GMT)

I agree with Sambit's conclusions - whilst England had worked themselves into a match winning position, a draw for them will BUILD momentum. I think that India will have 1 of 3 things happen, a) there batsmen will now officially be burdened with the fact they need to make massive scores EVERY time they play (can't be done ALWAYS); b) there bowlers wake up & devise better strategies to restrict the opposition & RELEIVE the batsmen (Hopefully this will be the case); c) Groundsmen will create spin friendly tracks with cracks & uneven bounce, (hopefully NOT the case)!!!!!!!

Posted by Christo on (March 2, 2011, 5:51 GMT)

India need great pacers like steyn and akram and they should be able to bat as well. They also need excellent fielders. The current Indian team has lousy fielders. Only few good fielders.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 1, 2011, 19:42 GMT)

First, both Dhoni and Strauss agreed that the wicket got easier to bat on, on the second innings....why dont anyone say anything about England bowling, their most promising man, Anderson, was clean washed by Sachin. Zaheer atleast came back with his reverse swing to take all those wickets...but poor bowling by Chawla and Munaf Patel, true that, whereas it was exceptional bowling by England at the death overs.

Posted by Ashok on (March 1, 2011, 18:05 GMT)

Indian team has really been criticized by one and all, some even advising Indian seamers to watch the replay of Pakistan Vs. SL game and how Pakistan contained them. To start with if Malinga had played that game, Pakistan would have lost handily.Secondly, India would have won the match against England if only they were in the game watching the batsmen. It is amazing they missed the caught behind of Strauss when he was just 17 - No appeals at all. Do Dhoni & Zaheer need to see an ENT specialist? Any bowler can see the deflection of the ball and hear it. So it was also Indian cricketers not focussing on the game - Why not appeal even if it is turned down? England with just 4 reliable batsmen were mainly responsible to get the total. I would only blame India for not keepong their nerve in the last 2 overs, conceding Indian bowling is weak.28 runs in those 2 overs to free swingers!Again the luck played a big role in the game - everything going towards England including Umpire Bowden.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 1, 2011, 17:27 GMT)

Lots of the people criticized indian bowler not capable of defending a big score. I have to ask them how about english bowler, are they any better? How about bangla bowler? The pitch was absolutely flat and there was nothing for the bowler specially in the second half of the game so I would say Indian bowler did better than english bowler. Also, there is no praise for the Indian batsmen who are putting up such a huge total yet again and thats not fair. We need to support our team all the way

Posted by Ashok on (March 1, 2011, 16:19 GMT)

Sambit. you are saing that y India's attack is exposed only now. Everybody knew when this team was selected that India's bowling has just 2 recognized bowlers in Zaheer & Harbhajan & out of these 2, Harbhajan was totally out of form. Now this has been proven - although much fancied England bowling was just as bad to give 338 runs. In fact the Indian bowlers would have smelled like roses if only Zaheer & Dhoni appealed for the confirmed caught behind of Strauss when he as just 17 and Bell given out LBW again at 17.But no one appears to have an answer to improve the Indian bowling attack, including Dhoni & the Selectors. Chawla was hit for most 4's & 6's because he has no ODI experience. Other alternative is to play 5 bowlers. Bottom line is you have inherently weak bowlers - answer replace them with better ones. I had proposed recalling Kumble out of the retirement because he bowled so well in IPL T-20 last year that he looked as good as ever. This will be a positive move.

Posted by Luvli on (March 1, 2011, 9:32 GMT)

I agree with Brightsun's comments. Why has Ashwin not played yet? He was clearly the form spinner leading into the tournament along with Harbhajan. Only excuse could be that India are saving him for knock out matches as a surprise factor. Would hate to think he will not play any big games as India require his services if they are to win WC2011!

Posted by sasi on (March 1, 2011, 8:28 GMT)

If the other countries using spinners to open the bowling attack, why cant India do that with Aswin, Bhajji, Piyush & Yusuf on the team. If seamers cant produce wickets or stop runs try Sehwag to open the bowling attack too. There is not too many skillful players of spin bowling are opening. Try 3+1+masalamix

Posted by sasi on (March 1, 2011, 8:19 GMT)

Its a long list of bowlers India try after Ajit Agarkar & Anil Kumble. No one keep up to international standard. None has picked up wickets with new ball.

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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