January 9, 2002

India clinch series with massive win at Hyderabad

Even the Indian women would not have imagined that England would succumb so meekly in this five-match women's one-day international series. At the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad, India took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, thereby closing the door on England. A thumping 113-run win settled the issue, with India outplaying England in every department of the game.

England won the toss, but little else for the rest of the day, and put India in to bat on a flat track. Early in the day, there was palpable movement in the air for England's seamers, but the Indians were upto the task. Jaya Sharma (9), back at the top of the order, was the first to go, and Anju Jain (8) followed her to the pavilion. At this stage, India were in a spot of bother at 31/2. Skipper Anjum Chopra, however, steadied the ship; her innings was not pretty, and far from her best, but it served its purpose.

Not attempting anything fancy, Chopra saw off the accurate medium-pace of Lucy Pearson. The left-arm seamer ended with an impressive first spell of 7-2-10-1. Having done all the hard work, however, Chopra was unable to make a big score and fell on 12 (50 balls).

The fall of Chopra's wicket brought Mithali Raj and Mamatha Maben together. A 52-run partnership for the fourth wicket ensued, with Maben and Mithali playing sensibly throughout. Knocking the ball into the gaps and collecting singles for the best part of their partnership, the pair did not miss out when the loose ball was on offer. Mithali, usually a free-stroking bat, was not at her best, but managed 38 (71 balls, 4 fours) before falling to the spin of Clare Connor.

In the presence of Arundhati Kirkire, who played some innovative cricket, Maben brought up her half century. The Bangalore all-rounder, who last played for India way back in 1993, when the team travelled to England for the World Cup, had been unable to find a place in the Indian team until this series. Maben also suffered a serious setback in 2000, when she dislocated her shoulder on the opening day of the CricInfo Rani Jhansi Trophy. The domestic season of 2001, however, saw her stage a strong comeback, scoring consistently throughout the year. Making a half-century in just the third game after her comeback, she has justified her selection, something that took eight long years to happen. Maben remained unbeaten on 56 (86 balls, 5 fours).

Kirkire's almost run-a-ball 34 (4 fours) ended in the last ball of the Indian innings. The Maben-Kirkire pair had added 75 for the fifth wicket and taken India to 191 in 50 overs.

Attempting to chase a challenging target, England never appeared to be in the running. Caroline Atkins and Arran Thompson made 21 apiece, but no other batsman looked at all comfortable out in the middle. The Indian seamers kept a tight line from the very outset, cutting out England's chances of getting a flying start. The loss of wickets at regular intervals continued to be a problem that dogged England. With no partnerships materialising, the visitors were soon at sea, with the score reading 70/9 after 37 overs. It was only a matter of time before the last wicket fell, on 78, bringing the match to a close.

For the Indians, seamer Sunita Singh sparked off the collapse, ending on 10-3-9-2. The Western Railways seamer will be especially happy with her effort given that the wicket was so good for batting. Singh was well supported by the off-spin of Nooshin al-Khader (2/24). Towards the end of the innings Mithali Raj, brought on to bowl her very slow floaters, turned out to be the surprise package, scalping three wickets for four runs off 4.3 overs.

After the match was over, Mithali, delighted to receive the Woman of the Match award, had this to say. "It feels great to do well in my home ground, in front of all those who have supported me. When I came in to bat, we had lost both openers and the captain, so I needed bat sensibly. As vice-captain, it was my duty to take the team out of the situation it was in, and that is what I did," she said.

Chopra was less restrained and began by congratulating her players for the series win. "Mithali and Mamatha batted really brilliantly to get us into such a good position. Don't forget Arundhati Kirkire's knock; that too came at just the right time," she began. The skipper went on to add, "It was a planned batting effort. We wanted Mithali to bat out the full 50 overs, while players at the other end took the initiative. When we came on to bowl, things were a bit tight initially, but Sunita and Nooshin gave us the breakthroughs and things became much easier," she said of the comprehensive victory.

Clare Connor, utterly disappointed at the result, began by saying, "We didn't expect to be beaten so easily. But there is a fair bit of the tour to go yet. We will now be focussing on the Test, where we can regain some pride by putting in a good showing." The England captain went on to spell out some of the areas that let the team down. "We really did not build any partnerships, and that is something you have to do in any form of the game to succeed. We also lacked the freedom to play shots, something we hope to sort out soon."

Judging by her remarks, as well as the showings thus far on the tour, England clearly have a few things to sort out before the one-off Test at Lucknow.