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A breather for England

And finally, an England captain was called up last in the post-match presentations. Andrew Strauss was that lucky man as England registered their first ODI win of the series, in conditions as different from those they are used to and most comfortable in, as is humanly possible. It was a scorching 44 degrees, and more than one player had to be put on an intravenous drip in the dressing room to help rehydrate and replenish essential salts and minerals, but in the end it was England who came out on top.

Strauss's day began badly as he lost the toss in good batting conditions and things could have easily gone from bad to worse had the Indian top order not had a collective failure of application. England's decision to go into the game with just one spinner appeared to be a mistake as fast bowlers would struggle to bowl longish spells, but they were never called upon to do so.

Virender Sehwag may have more ODI experience than James Anderson, Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood put together, and perhaps thought it was his day when he crunched the first ball of the match through point for a boundary. But it was a false dawn as he would only spend five balls at the crease, edging to slip, trying to force the ball off the back foot, and that would be typical of what was to follow.

Anderson has not had the easiest time of it, being in and out of the England team, but he has come through as a solid, dependable reserve bowler. Instead of trying to pitch the ball up and swing it - after initial movement in the air when the ball was brand new there was little help in that department - he hit the deck hard. The surface, while being an even one had a bit of pace in it, and the odd ball did move off the seam.

Mahmood and Plunkett never appeared quicker than mediumpace, but they were steady enough to do the job as India's batsmen seemed intent on committing cricketing suicide. Yuvraj Singh dragged one back onto his stumps, Suresh Raina tickled a ball going down leg, Venugopala Rao chased a wide delivery and Mohammad Kaif's horror run continued. He became Mahmood's first international victim as he played for the outswinger and could not get his bat round his front pad quick enough to prevent the lbw as the ball came in with the arm.

When England had India at 79 for 5, Strauss must have sensed that he had the game in the bag. Only a miracle could have saved India, and though one nearly happened in the form a typically blistering 96 from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and an equally typical dogged 54 from Ramesh Powar, India could only make 223.

With the pitch being hard and the ball coming nicely onto the bat, the stage was well set for Ian Bell's first knock in the one-day series. The target was not massive and this afforded Bell the opportunity to get his eye in and play at his own pace, a great gift considering the fact that Bell isn't one of those batsmen who plays big shots early on. The captaincy rested lightly on Strauss's shoulders and he enjoyed the bounce and pace off the wicket.

Through this one-day series slow pitches have meant that Strauss has had to cut out some of his favourite, and most profitable shots, especially the ones played with a horizontal bat, square of the wicket on the off side. At the Keenan Stadium there were no such compunctions, and Strauss made India's inexperienced seamers pay almost every time they let him free his arms. Eventually it was the heat that did Strauss in, and when he cramped up so badly on 74, already using the services of a runner, that it affected every stroke he played, good sense prevailed and he retired hurt.

By then he had done the job, though and despite a small flurry of wickets England won by five wickets with plenty to spare. When later asked, only half-seriously, about whether his captaincy had played a role in the win, Strauss laughed it off, and the irony of the situation would not have been lost on him. When Andrew Flintoff, England's best ODI player, was pounding in, doing all he could with bat and ball, England were blanked out. Just as soon as he took a breather, fortunes changed.