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Nagraj Gollapudi in Mumbai
November 9, 2008
England XI 297 for 4 (Flintoff 100*, Shah 83) beat Mumbai XI 175 for 8 (Shetye 50, Anderson 3-15) by 122 runs
Andrew Flintoff's 85-ball 100, with strong support from Owais Shah, set up a comfortable 122-run victory for England over a second-string Mumbai side in their first practice game of the tour. There were more gains for England's batsmen than their bowlers, who, except for James Anderson, had to toil without much impact.
Flintoff was a little scratchy to begin with and survived three chances. On 7 he hit a full toss from Dinesh Salunkhe, the legspinner, hard towards cover where Nilesh Kulkarni failed to hold it. Then, on 25, a sweep went flying straight to Abhijit Shetye at deep square leg but a simple chance went down. A third nervous moment came when he got a thin edge off Salunkhe, but the keeper couldn't hold on.
He made Mumbai pay dearly for those lapses as he bludgeoned his way to a century with strokes all around the ground, especially back over the bowler's head. He hit three sixes over long-on against Salunkhe to get to 99, then pushed a single to record his first century in any form of cricket since the fourth Test against Australia, at Trent Bridge, in 2005. "We will play against better teams on this tour, obviously, but a hundred is a hundred and I've not scored one for ages so I'll take it," he said after the day's play.
Kulkarni, the Mumbai captain, offered England the chance to bat first on a pitch that had enough bounce to keep the batsmen on their toes and enough moisture for the new ball to move. Vineet Sinha found early success when Matt Prior played across the line and lost his middle stump. Prior's opening partner, Ian Bell, also looked edgy and he was lucky when an edge flew wide of the slips. However, as the ball started to lose its shine both Bell and Shah found their feet and were quick to pick up singles.
Bell was sharp to react to anything loose and Sinha was dispatched with a pull through midwicket; a couple of balls later a wristy flick brought another boundary. His half-century came up with a paddle-sweep off the first ball from Kulkarni. However, in his bid to press on, Bell failed to read the flight of Vikrant Yeligati and was stumped.
England suffered another blow when they lost Kevin Pietersen, who was undone by a ball that bounced and took the outside edge. Shah concentrated on working the ball around as he bedded in and his first boundary didn't come until the 77th ball of his innings. However, as the final 10 overs began he and Flintoff increased the tempo and the third-wicket stand was worth 133 in 20 overs when Shah pulled to midwicket.
While most of their batsmen looked in useful touch England didn't find the same momentum with the ball. Only Anderson was able to find much swing and moved the ball both ways during an impressive opening burst, which included the wicket of Rohan Bagade with a perfect outswinger.
Barring Anderson, who ended his first spell with figures of 5-2-7-1, England's bowling failed to trouble the batsmen. Flintoff, Stuart Broad and Steve Harmison eased into their duties and it took 18.2 overs to break the second-wicket partnership between Shetye and Sushant Marathe.
Samit Patel and Graeme Swann, the two frontline spinners, were the only bowlers handed their full complement of overs and, on this evidence, will have to work on their loop and flight to make an impression on India's line-up. They tried to push the ball through quickly, instead of slowing the pace and gaining purchase off the surface. The wickets Patel earned were more a case of batsman's error than deception on his part. The main focus of this game, though, was giving key players a workout and Pietersen used eight bowlers including himself.
England have one more warm-up match, again against a Mumbai XI, on Tuesday before heading to Rajkot for the first ODI on November 14.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
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