India win by 16 runs in fading light
India made heavy work of an under-par England total in the first evenly-contested match between the two sides, but edged ahead thanks to a superior run-rate under the Duckworth/Lewis method when bad light curtailed their chase after 40 overs.
Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh produced some fireworks during India's chase, and that ultimately proved crucial as the umpires were forced to stop play in murky conditions, with India ahead by 16 runs. The toss, scheduled at 8:30 am local, had been put back 45 minutes because of the thick haze and overcast conditions in smoggy Kanpur, but only one over was docked from each innings, and to top it off, the lunch interval was not shortened.
The win could not have been possible without India's spinners, who had made the most of the pitch with 22 tidy overs that derailed England after a strong start. Harbhajan Singh picked up 3 for 31, his best returns since April 2006, which incidentally also came against England at home.
Perhaps confident of chasing a relatively low target, India threw their bats at the bowling but lost two quick wickets. After consecutive half-centuries, Gautam Gambhir fell for 14, slashing Andrew Flintoff's fifth delivery to third man. Suresh Raina went next, inside-edging a leaden-footed, ambitious drive against Stuart Broad (40 for 2). Sehwag decided that spin would be attacked - Samit Patel put down a hard caught-and-bowled when he was on 47 - and raised his half-century with a six off Graeme Swann. A stand of 68 with Rohit Sharma thrust the initiative back India's way, only for the latter to throw it back with a loose cut against Graeme Swann in the 23rd over.
Flintoff's return in the 26th over ended Sehwag's resistance on 68, thanks to a brilliant reaction catch from Paul Collingwood at backward point. Sehwag absolutely smashed the ball and Collingwood intercepted it with a leap in the air, before shrugging his shoulders in bewilderment. Attempting to edge ahead of the D/L requirement, India took their batting Powerplay after 34 overs, and Yuvraj welcomed it with a six. Attempting to hit another, he pulled Flintoff to deep square leg, holing out to Broad this time to leave the crowd stunned.
India were ten runs ahead at this point in fading light. Dhoni scampered singles and Yusuf Pathan found the gaps as well, taking Flintoff for consecutive boundaries. Matt Prior fluffed a leg-side stumping off his captain to reprieve Yusuf in the 39th over, but by then it was game over for England.
This win was set up in the field. Having lost the toss Dhoni looked on as England's openers added 79, but he pulled India back into the ascendancy through intelligent use of his spinners. Slowing the pace for the batsmen led to a steady flow of wickets, and not only did India restrict England in the middle overs, they also reduced the threat of a late-innings attack, with the otherwise wayward Ishant Sharma narrowly missing a hat-trick in the penultimate over. No boundaries were scored by England in the last three overs.
The visitors earlier got off to an assured start despite the hazy conditions. Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara struck a partnership of 79 for the first wicket, scoring at over five-and-a-half an over. At this stage, Pietersen probably wouldn't have envisioned how the innings would unravel. Bell was dismissed by Munaf Patel four short of his half-century and that triggered a collapse, with the run rate also dipping.
Dhoni turned to spin after the first drinks break, operating with the Singhs, Yuvraj and Harbhajan. Pietersen - back at No. 3 - took on Yuvraj with a driven six over long-on but couldn't dominate Harbhajan, spooning a catch to long-off on 13.
Collingwood's dismissal was a gem, set up craftily by Harbhajan. Having tossed up a few offbreaks, Harbhajan slipped in the doosra to sucker Collingwood further. The ball crept past his bat and Dhoni completed a smart stumping (106 for 3). That ball would have done for far better batsmen and Harbhajan continued to bowl admirably, tossing the ball up and landing it on all the right areas.
Having brought up his fourth ODI half-century with a blazing boundary through cover, Bopara was stumped off Yuvraj for 60. The rebuilding was now left to Flintoff, who was joined by Owais Shah at 133 for 4, but his struggles against spin continued. Moving across to Yusuf, he was struck plumb in front below the knee roll for 26. Dhoni's decision to give the ball to Yusuf immediately after the second drinks break had paid dividends.
England took the batting Powerplay after 38 overs, but managed 21 in the four overs. Shah hit some breezy strokes before becoming Harbhajan's 200th ODI wicket, chipping to long-off for 40 from 42 balls.
England played better in this game, but instead of questioning the laws of cricket, they should rue their batting collapse for the 0-3 deficit.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo