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When the young England and India colts kicked off their One-Day series at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium at Hyderabad, spectators and scribes alike were in for a surprise. On a pitch that had very little going for the bowlers apart from the odd one that kept low and some slow turn, the top score by a batsman on either side was 28. England were skittled out for a disappointing 127 and the Indians lost seven wickets before they overhauled the target before them. A straightforward lack of quality cricket? Nothing could be further from the truth.
On arrival at Vijayawada, where the second One-Dayer is to be played, the coaches of both teams looked back at what went wrong in the first encounter and indeed were on the job working at ironing out those faults. England are keen to win the second clash and level the series.
"I think Nicky Peng and Ian Bell batted exceptionally well," opined England coach Tim Boon. The two right handers got England off to a steady if not spectacular start before things began to go wrong. While Peng was forceful in whipping the ball through the midwicket region, Bell favoured driving the ball over the infield on the off side. "Having scored 50 odd after the first fifteen overs, we were in a reasonably good position," agreed Boon.
What then went wrong? Perhaps the fact that the pitch had seen four days of cricket prior to the One-Day match had something to do with it. "I don't think there was anything wrong with the pitch. The authorities had enough time to water it. If you saw the pitch on the morning of the One-Day match you would have seen that there was nothing at all in the wicket," said Indian coach Roger Binny. "I think both sides didn't bat to their potential. That was the real problem," added the former Indian allrounder. Binny's counterpart from the visiting side spoke of their own woes, "When the spinners came on we (the English batsmen) were not adept at working the ball into the gaps and running the ball around. If we could do that, we wouldn't be under so much pressure to go for the big shots."
Tim Boon is quick to admit that the England batsmen did have a bit of trouble against the spinners. What about the Indian camp? Losing seven wickets chasing 128 is hardly the sign of a dominating side. "Our batsmen just got carried away. Seeing the small total before us, there was definitely a bit of overconfidence," explained Binny. Even with all batsmen in the Indian middle order chipping in, the game almost went down to the wire. "When Vidyuth Sivaramakrishnan was dismissed (India were 115/7 at that stage) we were a bit nervous. At that stage we still needed a few runs and the game could have gone either way. Fortunately, many of our bowlers can bat a bit as well, Amit Mishra and even Siddharth Trivedi for that matter. That saw us through in the end," Binny said, heaving a visible sigh of relief.
In contrast, the England team lost their way after getting off to a decent start. "We desperately need our middle order to fire," admitted Boon. In the same regard, Boon did not rule out the possibility of some changes in the side for the second One-Dayer. This could see the return of Kadeer Ali to the middle order. The stylish Worcestershire middle order batsman has been a bit out of sorts on tour so far and might just be a touch short on confidence. However, the fact that Ali made more then 750 runs in second eleven cricket for Worcestershire is ample testimony to his ability.
The pitch here at Vijayawada is reputed to be a belter. If the teams can get their act together, perhaps a more exciting display of batsmanship will greet what should be the best crowd of the series. The fact that the match is being played on Sunday coupled with the venue being one of the smaller centres in the country points towards the possibility of having a sizable crowd.