Score: India 234-8 (Jadeja 78, Dhoni 69; Anderson 3-48) Full scorecard
At 25-4 in the 11th over, with James Anderson on song, who would not have wished India a recovery? What we wanted was a match. Thanks to MS Dhoni and, in particular, Ravindra Jadeja, we have one, even if England are favourites to make it 2-0 with two to play.
Anderson has spent the last few years becoming the Test bowler we hoped he would be. Curiously, his one-day form has dipped in that time: since September 2007 up until the start of this series Anderson had taken 89 ODI wickets at 36.34, conceding over five runs per over. Compare that with his record prior to then: 110 wickets at 26.45, conceding 4.75 runs per over.
Things might be about to change.
Everything was set for Anderson at The Oval: green pitch, overcast conditions. But he bowled beautifully. Swing accounted for Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, Parthiv Patel was surpised by a full one and Rahul Dravid was run out after Anderson picked and threw from cover.
It would be easy to say India were showing no bottle for the fight. In truth, these were tough conditions in which to bat against excellent new-ball bowling (don’t forget Tim Bresnan – six overs for 10 runs in his opening spell).
India’s first boundary did not arrive until the 10th over, when Suresh Raina flicked Bresnan down the legside. Shrieks burst out from the stands. Despite all the setbacks, the Indian fans were ready and willing to roar their team’s every run.
The partnership of Raina and MS Dhoni felt like the last piece before the Jenga tower would collapse. At last a contest was on. Dhoni played with his usual calm aura and fast hands, driving, cutting and pulling for four. Raina was more jumpy, but did produce one six over midwicket.
The pair had added 33 off 51 balls when Raina had a swipe at Stuart Broad and was caught behind. You could see it coming – Raina is a batsman who frets when runs are dry. He had faced nine consecutive balls without scoring, mainly because of Broad’s nagging consistency. The bowler thus deserved his wicket.
But the game of Jenga was not over, for in came the 22-year-old left-hander Ravindra Jadeja, recalled for his first ODI since December last year. At first he ran the singles but then, with England offering him a little too much room, he let fly his flamboyant off-side game. Broad went for two successive fours, one of which was hit with an outrageous whirl of arms that brought the Indian crowd to life. Graeme Swann was late-cut for another boundary.
Swann, bowling with accuracy and extra pace, was otherwise exceptionally tidy, and there were no more boundaries between the 32nd and 43rd over. India and The Oval were waiting for the batting powerplay.
At last it came, with seven overs left in the innings. The first two went for five runs only and also cost India the wicket of Dhoni, caught after skewing the ball up off the toe of the bat. But the third, bowled by Jade Dernbach, went for 19, the fourth (Bresnan) went for nine, the last (Anderson) for 16.
Jadeja was freeing his arms again but it wasn’t just down to him – Ravichandran Ashwin played the cameo’s cameo. Of his five fours, one was helped over the keeper, another blasted back behind the bowler and a third scooped off a yorker length to the fine-leg boundary.
Dernbach bowled a canny last over which saw the back of Jadeja (78 off 89 balls) and which went for just six runs. But India were back in the match. Indeed, any England fan who had a drop of sympathy for the tourists earlier in the innings might now be regretting the sentiment.
Benj Moorehead is a staff writer for The Cricketer