Gambhir searches for consistency
Opening the batting in temperatures that barely made it to double figures and with rain never far away it isn't an easy task even for the most experienced players. Gautam Gambhir had been expected to open the batting for India at Stormont so, when he came in at No.3 following Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal for 4, he could have been forgiven for a few nerves. But he responded with a calm and composed unbeaten 80, which led his team to a nine-wicket win as they opened their two-and-half-month tour of the UK in positive style.
"It will be a long tour so it's important to start off well. For any cricketer, not just me, it's nice to start well and I'm pleased I got the runs," said Gambhir after he'd collected the Man-of-the-Match award. "It's not like in India where you can just go out there and play through the line of the ball. Sometimes you have to be a bit more patient and work the ball into the gaps in these conditions."
After missing out on the World Cup, Gambhir returned to Indian colours with 21 and 101 against Bangladesh before backing those scores up with today's unbeaten 80. "At this level it's all about being consistent and that's what I was lacking in the past and it's very important for me."
And previous experience of English conditions played a valuable part in his innings. "I toured England with India A so I know something about batting on these types of tracks. You want to start off a season on a high note and I'm happy about the way it's begun."
Gambhir's match-winning stand of 162 with Sourav Ganguly followed a tidy display in the field, with Piyush Chawla leading the way with three wickets. Some smart catches were also taken and Robin Singh, the fielding coach, said this was an important area they were working on.
"We did a lot of work in Bangalore on the fitness," he said. "The fitter the guys the better they will field. These conditions were pretty cold but we fielded well in patches today, some didn't do so well, but overall some very good catches were taken.
"We have ensured we have worked on the fielding because it's a crucial area in one-day cricket. I think you'll see an improvement especially with the younger guys in the side. As long as the senior guys keep themselves fit they know what to do, but the emphasis is on the younger guys."
Trent Johnston had less to be pleased with as his young side were given a tough lesson. His team did well to recover and post 193, thanks to a half-century from Niall O'Brien and some effective hitting from the captain himself before some wayward bowling let them down.
"When we asked questions we were in with a show but we just didn't do that often enough, we bowled too many four balls," he said. "We bowled two sides of the wicket, we were bowling short, we were bowling full and you wouldn't be able to get away with that in club cricket, let alone bowling to a guy that's got 10,000 ODI runs.
After Roger Whelan struck in his first over thoughts did turn back to a few of those memorable days in the World Cup. "Getting Tendulkar out first over, I thought something might happen here," said Johnston. "I really did believe we had enough runs to do that but we just didn't ask enough questions and that was the disappointing thing.
"They had a young spinner but a good spinner and that's been our major problem, spin bowling. It's something we've got to work on but it's only playing games like this that's going to bring us along." Their next chance comes immediately as they take on South Africa on Sunday.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo.