The Bell factor and India's bowling worries

With the series decider at Lord's ending in a no-contest, Paul Collingwood led England to their first ODI series win at home in three years by beating India 4-3. It was perhaps an apt result, since the closely-fought Test series went India's way, ending England's six-year unbeaten streak in Tests at home.

India were powered by their batsmen throughout the series, especially their opening partnership of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. Their performances were indicative of how much the team relies on the senior batsmen, and their starts were crucial to India's success. On the other hand, England banked on inexperienced players like Matt Prior, Alastair Cook and Luke Wright to play the new ball. Cook scored his maiden hundred in the first ODI and at Lord's both Prior and Wright were dismissed for ducks. England's openers often got off to starts but failed to capitalise.

Although England's openers may have fallen short compared to India's, Ian Bell more than made up for that by scoring 422 runs and winning the Man-of-the-Series award. Rahul Dravid gave youngsters Dinesh Karthik and Gautam Gambhir a chance at No 3, though many felt he himself should have batted at that vital position.

While the batsmen performed for India, it was the bowlers that let them down. The spinners managed to tie down the England batsmen at times but, on the whole, it was a disappointing effort in the field especially from the fast bowlers. India's shoddy fielding didn't help matters either.

India dropped nine catches and missed one stumping opportunity during the seven matches. The England batsmen cashed in and a total estimate of how many runs they scored after being let off was around 237 runs. Bell was dropped four times in three matches. England, on the other hand, dropped only four catches, of which two were extremely difficult, and it cost them 114 runs.

While Zaheer Khan was the best bowler during the Test series, James Anderson upstaged him in the ODIs. Anderson picked up 14 wickets, while Flintoff and Broad took 10 and nine respectively.

The difference in the bowling performance is reflected in the average runs per wicket for both teams during the series.

India also lagged behind England in the run-rate during the Powerplays and even more so in the last ten overs, when the Indian bowlers and fielders were unable to prevent England from picking up easy runs.

India's two main weaknesses - running between the wickets and fielding - also show up in the break-up of scoring shots. While India are ahead in the percentage of fours, they are behind as far as ones, twos and threes are concerned.

The series also had several records and milestones. The following are some of the highlights:

  • India's 329 for 6 in Bristol equalled the best total at the ground, which was also scored by India against Kenya in the 1999 World Cup. The match aggregate of 649 is the highest for an ODI in Bristol and second-best in England.

  • India's win with two wickets and two balls to spare at The Oval is also one of the narrowest margins of victory in an ODI between the two sides.

  • Both Tendulkar and Ganguly surpassed Mohammad Azharuddin's mark of 911 runs to become the top two run-scorers in England-India ODIs.

  • Dimitri Mascarenhas hit his way into the list of most sixes in an innings in an England-India ODI. His unbeaten 36 off 15 was marginally behind Ian Botham's 34 off 13 as the innings with the highest strike-rate for England.

  • Botham's tally of 145 wickets - second to Darren Gough - for England has been equalled by Andrew Flintoff. Injuries have plagued Flintoff of late, but he was impressive in the matches that he played, bagging his first five-for in ODIs in Bristol.

  • Stuart Broad's figures of 1 for 84 off 10 overs at Headingley were the most runs conceded by a bowler in an England-India ODI, with only Steve Harmison doing worse for England - having given away 97 runs against Sri Lanka, also at Headingley.

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni became the first Indian wicketkeeper to record six dismissals in an ODI at the Oval. He equalled the record held by Adam Gilchrist, Mark Boucher, Ridley Jacobs and Alec Stewart. Dhoni also had a hand in all the first five England wickets to fall, a feat previously achieved only by Gilchrist against New Zealand in Christchurch in 2002. Dhoni also became the second India wicketkeeper after Nayan Mongia to complete 100 dismissals in ODIs.

  • Ganguly played his 300th ODI and also became the fourth player to complete 11,000 runs in ODIs. Yuvraj was the sixth Indian batsman to go past 5000 runs in ODIs.

  • In the first match at The Rose Bowl, Cook and Bell scored their first centuries in ODIs. Owais Shah made his maiden hundred at The Oval while Dimitri Mascarenhas and Luke Wright - on debut - scored their first fifties during the series.