India v England, 1st ODI, Delhi

'For me it was the last throw of the dice' - Dravid

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Delhi

March 28, 2006

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Rahul Dravid with his ace bowler as India turned it around with a thrilling spell of spin © Getty Images
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Supersubs may be an extinct phenomenon but it's the Powerplays that came to the fore in the low-scoring dogfight at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Both batting line-ups suffered jolts with the effect of the second Powerplay and, in a coincidence of sorts, both scored exactly 24 runs and lost three wickets in the ten specified overs.

While Andrew Flintoff preferred to enforce the two Powerplays immediately after the 10th over, when India were motoring along at a run-rate of 5.6, Rahul Dravid, defending a modest target, chose to hold it back. While England fought back through the nagging accuracy of their unheralded medium-pacers - Kabir Ali and Liam Plunkett - India turned it around with a thrilling spell of spin.

It would have no doubt been a tough decision to take: India didn't have too many runs to play with, the ball had lost much of it's early shine, and Kevin Pietersen was toying with the medium-pacers with some brash swipes to leg. Dravid, who's usually favoured wicket-taking to restriction, revealed the rationale behind the move.

"It was a tough one as a captain and it's not easy with players of the calibre of Pietersen and Flintoff to come. We had only 203 to defend and needed wickets. At that stage, Pietersen was going really well. We thought we'll just break things up a bit and delay it by two or three overs. We got another wicket but Flintoff came in and that posed some more problems."

Flintoff had joined Pietersen in the 12th over and the duo hushed up the jam-packed Kotla by carting 60 in the next eight. To compound matters, Dravid hadn't yet used his fifth bowler yet. That was when dust started turning into gold. Yuvraj came on and delivered, of all things, a full toss. Pietersen swept it straight to deep midwicket.

Dravid needed to act, swiftly. "Once we'd got Pietersen, we had the opportunity to use the second Powerplay. For me it was the last throw of the dice. If Pietersen hadn't got out in three or four overs, we would have had to use it anyway." As it turned out, the dice landed magically. Flintoff swept to his doom and heralded a manic passage of play when the stadium erupted back to life. Within the next ten overs the game was as good as over (when England crumbled to 141 for 8) and chants of "Bring back Sourav" (that were heard during the lunch break) were a distant memory.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo

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