There is always a sense of occasion about one-day internationals at Chester-le-Street, which makes it doubly disappointing when the weather intervenes as it did here. It must be said that when it was called off after persistent drizzle, India would have been regarded as favourites following a century from Sachin Tendulkar had taken them to the imposing total of 285 for four from their 50 overs. With England only facing 12.3 overs, not even Duckworth/Lewis could put the gloss of a positive result on the game.
The match got off to a sensational start when Sourav Ganguly was struck on the pad by the first ball of the match. Darren Gough let out a loud appeal and umpire David Shepherd decided it was not swinging down the leg side and so Ganguly was on his way.
Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Mongia took toll of too many balls down the leg side to compile an partnership of 48 at a run a ball before Sehwag played a somewhat lazy shot against James Kirtley to send a catch to the right of Marcus Trescothick at mid-on that the fielder made to look easier than it was.
Mongia followed three overs later, chipping Gough to Andrew Flintoff at short mid-wicket where he had been positioned in preference to slip. Although the Indian batsmen were pushing the score along at a healthy rate, they would have been concerned at the loss of wickets.
The loss of the three in the first eleven overs meant that India had to reconstruct their innings with a partnership between Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Of the two, Dravid was slightly more fluent at this stage, although he did take a bulk of the strike. The boundary was not especially large and so a halfway total of 116 for three did not represent as large a score as India might have envisaged at the outset.
There was no great pace in the pitch and it was the medium pace of Ronnie Irani that caused the batsmen most trouble. Tendulkar edged him past Alec Stewart, who was standing up to the stumps, for four and generally found timing the ball difficult as Irani kept a full length and found a consistent line on or just outside off stump.
That was the only boundary off Irani who kept a clean sheet with regard to wides and no balls in a miserly spell of ten overs that went for a mere 23 runs. Flintoff too could be pleased with his figures as he conceded only 36 from his ten overs, but the batsmen did not find the same difficulty with Paul Collingwood. The first Durham player to appear for England on his home ground, he was punished to the extent that his first three overs went for 23 runs, including a six lifted effortlessly off his legs by Tendulkar over long-on.
Kirtley also proved to be expensive, as did Ashley Giles who brought an extraordinary array of strokes out of Tendulkar. He made room to stroke him through the off-side, went across his stumps to whip him away to leg and stayed where he was to play the premeditated reverse sweep.
Suddenly batting was made to look easy as Tendulkar and Dravid went past fifty, Tendulkar in 72 balls and Dravid 86, but it was the fact that it was a partnership that rendered it so useful to their side and, at the same time, exposed flaws in the England attack. It was only ended when Dravid smote a full toss from Collingwood to the safe hands of Flintoff at deep mid-wicket.
The fall of the wicket had no effect on the climbing run rate. Yuvraj Singh is not the sort of batsman to loiter in such a situation, while Tendulkar, by now in outrageous form, went to his hundred off 106 balls with seven fours and a six. It was his first century off the England attack in one-day internationals and his 32nd in all. The partnership produced 64 runs in 33 balls, with Yuvraj contributing 40 having faced just 19 balls.
In pursuit of the Indian total of 285 for four, England made no more than a steady start and lost Trescothick in the sixth over for 23. The Somerset man had been in prime form in the series, but after facing 26 balls from which he had hit three fours, he was lbw to Zaheer Khan to leave England on 30 for one.
Nick Knight and Nasser Hussain picked up the challenge, but they were well behind the required rate when persistent drizzle forced the players from the field after 12 overs. A few minutes earlier, the umpires had consulted and seemed set to follow the England batsmen to the pavilion before they heeded the pleas of the Indian players and carried on. Hussain and Knight had to resume until the rain became even heavier.
Ten minutes after they had gone off, the players returned but only for three balls. Without any addition to the score, they went off again as the drizzle set in without any sign of relenting. With no obvious break in the clouds and the requirement for 25 overs to be bowled before Duckworth/Lewis calculations come into force, the umpires had a look but had no option but to call the game off.