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March 31, 2006
A nerveless 118-run stand between Suresh Raina, India's latest teenage prodigy, and the wicketkeeper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, rescued India from a middle-order collapse and carried them to a comfortable four-wicket victory in the second one-day international at Faridabad.
Chasing 227 for victory after losing the toss, India had stuttered from 61 for 0 to 92 for 5 in 11 overs of indiscretion, but Raina demonstrated maturity beyond his years to compile a superb unbeaten 81 from 89 deliveries. It was his first half-century in international cricket, but the deftness of touch that he showed on a tricky low-bouncing surface was clear evidence that it would not be his last.
India had been in some disarray when Dhoni and Raina began a rearguard that blossomed into a gleeful gallop to victory. After a sprightly 61-run stand from Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, a mid-innings collapse had left England with victory in their grasp - for the second time in consecutive matches. But whereas the Delhi defeat had been of England's own making, this time they were forced to bow to the brilliance of India's sixth-wicket pair.
Raina did offer one chance, on 20, when James Anderson leapt to his right in his followthrough and clung on magnificently, only for the ball to bobble out as his elbow jarred on the turf. But that was his only aberration. Two wristy stroked fours through the covers off Liam Plunkett and Andrew Flintoff had served notice of his class, but it was once he had passed fifty and brought victory into his sights that he really unfurled his shots. Kabir Ali disappeared for 15 runs in his final over - riches on this sluggish surface - including an outrageous sweep past fine-leg for four.
Though it was Raina making the running, Dhoni's contribution was equally invaluable. He had been rightly lambasted for the manner of his dismissal in the Mumbai Test, but here he was temperance personified. It wasn't until he had been at the crease for 78 minutes that he scored his first boundary - a reverse-sweep off Ian Blackwell, who again enhanced his one-day reputation with a plucky spell of 2 for 38.
Blackwell's two wickets had bookended India's collapse, with Sehwag starting things off by missing a sweep to be bowled behind his legs, and Yuvraj Singh chopping an attempted cut onto his off-stump for 18. In between whiles, Gautam Gambhir top-edged a horrid smear back to James Anderson and Mohammad Kaif fell lbw for a duck, but the big scalp was that of the captain, Rahul Dravid, who was run out in bizarre circumstances as he attempted to steal a single from a ricochet off the stumps.
Dravid's departure left England fully believing they had the victory in their grasp, but ultimately they paid the price for their over-reliance on pace. The slow, low surface was tailor-made for spin, and to that end India had packed their side with four slow bowlers. The pick of these was Ramesh Powar, whose haul of 3 for 34 included a becalmed Andrew Strauss for 61, and the dangerous duo of Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff. They contributed five runs between them, with Flintoff's failure his first in eight international innings on the tour - his previous lowest score of 41 had come in the first ODI.
Once again, England owed what little momentum they had to a barnstorming performance from Kevin Pietersen. He had made just 3 when Raina reprieved him in the deep, and went on to record 71 from 87 balls, with four fours and two sixes. The second of these maximums carried him past 1000 runs in one-day cricket in just 21 innings, thus equalling Viv Richards's record, but he fell to his very next ball, as he attempted to pummel Yuvraj through midwicket.
Without his guidance, England's tail once again subsided meekly, with the last five wickets subsiding in seven overs and a blaze of big hits, as India's seamers capitalised on the lack of pace and some increasingly desperate strokes. A total of 226 was not to be sniffed at, but Raina's maturity beyond his years ensured that India will travel to Goa next week with a 2-0 lead in the bag.
Matt Prior lbw b Harbhajan Singh 33 (66 for 1)
Shaping across the line, beaten by turn
Owais Shah c Dhoni b Powar 0 (71 for 2)
Thin inside-edge onto pad, looped up to keeper
Andrew Strauss b Powar 61 (135 for 3)
Down the track, aiming through midwicket, beaten
Andrew Flintoff st Dhoni b Powar 5 (143 for 4)
Down the track, turned through the gate
Paul Collingwood run out (Dhoni) 5 (174 for 5)
Set off for quick single, sent back, beaten by 10-yard shy
Kevin Pietersen c Dravid b Yuvraj 71 (193 for 6)
Hitting against the spin, flipped to midwicket
Ian Blackwell b Sreesanth 9 (214 for 7)
Deceived by offcutter
Liam Plunkett b Pathan 4 (221 for 8)
Swing and a miss
Geraint Jones c Gambhir b Sreesanth 22 (223 for 9)
Pulled to deep midwicket
James Anderson b Sreesanth 2 (226 for 10)
Made room to slog, lost off stump
Virender Sehwag b Blackwell 26 (61 for 1)
Lining up the sweep, dragged onto stumps
Gautam Gambhir c & b Anderson 29 (70 for 2)
Horrid waft across the line, steepling top-edge to bowler
Rahul Dravid run out (Collingwood) 5 (72 for 3)
Jones's shy deflected towards point, one remaining bail removed as fielder swooped
Mohammad Kaif lbw b Plunkett 0 (80 for 4)
Short ball, on the pull, didn't get up
Yuvraj Singh b Blackwell 18 (92 for 5)
Cutting sharp tweaker, under-edge onto stumps
Mahendra Dhoni b Flintoff 38 (210 for 6)
Hoick across the line, dragged on
As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history