India's chances of even sharing a trophy during their painful tour of England vanished amid scenes of confusion and gamesmanship at Lord's. As showers arrived in the closing stages of the run-chase India were the first side to find themselves ahead of the rate, then it was the hosts who edged into pole position before the final blows were struck. So in the end a tie looked the right result because a question emerges: did both teams go against the Spirit of Cricket - that principle so notably invoked earlier in the tour?
"We just saw the ugly side of cricket," MS Dhoni, the India captain, said. "Whichever team has the upperhand does not want to play and whichever team is not on the winning side will try to stick there to try and change the result. It is a part and parcel of cricket and both the sides did that."
When the first brief rain break occurred England were two runs behind the D/L par score of 235, with six wickets down, after 44 overs. Ravi Bopara and Graeme Swann were desperate to get on with the game, but the India captain MS Dhoni was reluctant to let Munaf Patel start his over. Understandably, Dhoni was being fussy about getting his fielders in the right positions. You cannot deny him that right. The England fans trumpeted their boos loud and clear. Two minutes later the umpires decided to stop play. Bopara and Swann, unimpressed, were reluctant to walk off the ground. Suddenly the rain ceased as a flash of sunlight sparkled across the green turf.
By then the entire Indian team had left the ground and were on their way to the dressing-room. Only the umpires, Marais Erasmus and Richard Illingworth, and the two England batsmen stood on the field. Munaf even sat in the member's seat as a thick air of intrigue suddenly hung in the air. Moments later India trundled back and the match resumed towards a tantalising end.
"You just expect the rain to go off and somehow you want to get on to the field. Nothing much I could have done," Dhoni said. "We tried to get back to the dressing-room and waited for the shower to finish,"
Nine runs came off the Munaf over, which ultimately proved crucial as by now England were two runs ahead of the par score with 39 needed from the final five overs. Now came the second interruption. This time the drizzle transformed into proper rain, forcing the covers to be spread straight away. Bopara and Swann zipped into the dressing-room, but the India players gathered in a huddle about ten yards inside the ropes at the Pavilion End. It was as if they were performing some sort of ritual that would stop the rain. But the rain dripped hard, forcing the visitors to finally leave the field.
"It is human nature," Alastair Cook, the England captain, said. "When you are ahead of the game and you have got to go off you are obviously going to be happier than the other team. It was quite clear when we came out the first time we wanted to go back out because we were behind and when we came off for the second time we were ahead. To be honest, we would've quite liked it to rain for another hour so we wouldn't have had the last few hours. That is because the desire to win is so huge in both sides."
Cook, though, was fully behind the umpires which perhaps isn't surprising as England clinched the series. "The umpires have an extremely tough job to know what's heavy rain and what's light rain," he said. "But they were consistent when we came off for the first time and when we came off at the end. I don't think we should have any complaints about it."
Bopara, the man responsible for rescuing England's chase from 61 for 3, revealed he was aware of the D/L par score "over-by-over but not ball-by-ball." Until he decided to swing Munaf over deep midwicket, Bopara had played his shots with care, composure and confidence. But he said he had to take a chance to make sure England did not panic in the final over.
What he did not know was his wicket actually changed the match scenario completely. According to the D/L tables the par score at 48.5 overs, with seven wickets down, was 269. Once Bopara was dismissed with seven deliveries before the finish, the par score changed to 270. However, most of the players were unsure what was happening because the scoreboard had already ticked over to show the end-of-over D/L par score of 271.
"Some of the guys were confused," Dhoni admitted. "Some of them thought we had won it, for others they were still like 'what is the scenario right now?' Most of us thought it is just another passing shower and we would be able to get back on the field in whatever time. But once back in the dressing-room we had the final sheet of paper which showed the D/L par score and after that it was pretty much sure that it was a tie."
And this time there was no gamesmanship. India's wait goes on.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo