Sreesanth celebrates one of his six wickets
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Normal service resumed after the blip at Jamshedpur as India completed a 5-1 series victory with an authoritative seven-wicket win in the final one-day international at Indore. Chasing 289 without Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni might have seemed a daunting task but after the ease with which debutant Robin Uthappa and Rahul Dravid set up the chase, it seemed natural that India's finishers, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, completed the job in what is fast becoming stereotypical fashion.
India's perfectly planned chase overshadowed England's batsmen who saved their best batting performance for last. Kevin Pietersen began the assault with an ambush that blinded India in minutes. Paul Collingwood and Geraint Jones sustained the momentum before going into overdrive in the slog as England finished on 288 with Sreesanth picking up career-best figures of 6 for 55.
If England thought that Dravid and Yuvraj were the key to India's chase, they overlooked Uthappa who went on to make 86, the highest score by an Indian on debut. Dravid and Uthappa took advantage of an inexperienced attack on a placid pitch to give India their first century opening stand of the series.
Uthappa nerves, if any, would have dissipated after hitting two fours off James Anderson in the first over of the innings. Against Dravid, the inexperience of the bowlers was plain to see as they bowled full and on his pads. His first commanding stroke was a rocketing pull off Mahmood to fine leg but a perfectly balanced and wristy flick off Anderson was a sight to behold. Uthappa lost the race to fifty but caught up and overtook Dravid by clobbering Anderson's fifth over for 15 runs.
Uthappa and Dravid fell within the space of five balls after a 166-run opening stand - Uthappa caught unawares by a throw he didn't expect to come to his end, and Dravid trapped in front by a straight delivery from Mahmood. It was England's only window of opportunity to claw back but Yuvraj and Raina slammed it shut.
During their 115-run partnership for the third wicket, they picked up singles at will with punchy drives in front of the wicket and powerful cuts and pulls on either side. The risk was non-existant and boundaries were not even needed to keep up to an asking-rate that had climbed to over six after the openers fell. The ten overs after India lost Dravid produced fifty runs and with eight wickets in hand, it was a matter of when rather than if India would win.
The impressive Robin Uthappa clips a four on his way to 86
However, India didn't have it this easy throughout the match. England had lost Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior in successive overs from Sreesanth when Pietersen strode to the crease at 47 for 2. After a circumspect start, he manhandled VRV Singh for 26 runs in his second over. Not satisfied with devastating one Singh, Pietersen clubbed three consecutive fours in the very next over, off RP Singh. The third Powerplay produced 54 runs and Dravid brought on his spinners to rein in the run-rate.
Ramesh Powar and Yuvraj dried up the boundaries and, Pietersen struggled to maintain his skyscraper strike-rate and eventually holed out to deep midwicket. In this series, Pietersen's scores read 46, 71, 77, 33 and his 64 today adds to the list of century opportunities gone abegging.
With the innings gaining momentum, Collingwood and Jones added 40 between the 30th and 40th overs with minimum fuss. In contrast to Collingwood, who hammered RP Singh for a four and a six early in his innings, Jones faced 27 balls before finding the fence. He cut loose during the slog, bludgeoning Powar into the stands at long-on and Collingwood duplicated the stroke a ball later to bring up his fifty. Jones capitalised on VRV Singh's lack of confidence, taking 16 runs off his seventh over, and reached his half-century with consecutive boundaries off Pathan.
A flurry of wickets hampered England's progress at the death and several batsmen offered catches to long-off and long-on to give Sreesanth six wickets, but most of the other bowlers suffered, with VRV Singh going for 73 in seven overs. The score seemed a challenging one, but for team on a run-chase roll, it turned out to be quite inadequate.
Andrew Strauss c Karthik b Sreesanth 25 (42 for 1)
Low catch off the bottom-edge referred to third umpire
Matt Prior c Pathan b Sreesanth 2 (47 for 2)
Top-edged a hook to fine leg
Ian Bell run out Yuvraj Singh 32 (110 for 3)
Sacrificed himself with both batsmen at one end
Kevin Pietersen c Uthappa b Yuvraj 64 (165 for 4)
Slog-swept straight to deep midwicket
Geraint Jones c Karthik b Sreesanth 53 (257 for 5)
Superb one-handed reflex catch, diving to his right
Paul Collingwood c RP Singh b Pathan 64 (267 for 6)
Holed out to long on
Ian Blackwell c Raina b Sreesanth 11 (274 for 7)
Chipped a slower ball to long on
Kabir ali c Rao b Pathan 1 (277 for 8)
Lobbed straight to long off
Liam Plunkett c VRV Singh b Sreesanth 6 (288 for 9)
Holed out to long-on
Sajid Mahmood c VRV Singh b Sreesanth 9 (288 all out)
Pulled a short ball to long on
Robin Uthappa run out Jones 86 (165 for 1)
Caught unawares with the bat in the air
Rahul Dravid lbw Mahmood 69 (166 for 2)
Struck in front by a straight ball
Suresh Raina b Ali 53 (281 for 3)
Lost leg-stump trying to heave to the on side
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo