Score: India 234-8 (Jadeja 78, Dhoni 69; Anderson 3-48), England 218-7 (Kieswetter 51, Bopara 40; Ashwin 3-40). England won by 3 wickets (D/L) Full scorecard
England continue to lay the boot in India – it is now 7-0 in the matches played between the two sides this summer. It was also their fifth victory (with two defeats) since Alastair Cook took over the captaincy. Two up with two to play, England cannot lose the series. But they had to fight hard for this one, and a close contest was a major boon for a hitherto flat series.
For a while it looked like another stroll for England. Craig Kieswetter, as ever, used his feet against the quicker bowlers to hit them over midwicket or cover, and made his fifth score of 43 or above in eight innings since his recall to the England side at the beginning of the summer.
Cook clipped Munaf Patel off his legs for four but was lbw trying the same shot to a straighter ball in the bowler’s next over. From England’s view, though, everything was in order at 87-1 in the 17th over. The chatter in the air made it seem like everyone had come to The Oval for a conversation, with the cricket a pleasant backdrop. Such was the sense of inevitability.
But MS Dhoni was bowling his spinners in tandem and both were able to quell the runs and turn the ball. The two Ravis: from the Pavilion End, the tall Ashwin, right-arm offspin; from the Vauxhall End, the curly-haired Jadeja, left-arm orthodox. The Ravis had already enjoyed themselves when putting on 59 in just over five overs at the end of India’s innings.
It was precisely because of the threat of spin that Kieswetter and Jonathan Trott lost their wickets within six balls of each other. Kieswetter anticipated turn and was bowled – middle stump – by a ball from Jadeja which skidded on. Trott defended inside the line of a ball from Ashwin which carried on to hit off.
What a situation for the fresh-faced Ben Stokes, playing his fourth ODI, to come into. The Indian fans were on their feet with every appeal – and there were some. Stokes was hit fractionally outside the line to his first ball. It could easily have been given.
The series had come to life!
But, almost unnoticed, some darker clouds had moved in. The players were soon walking off, the sting drawn from the game.
They returned an hour later. Duckworth-Lewis had not been kind to England. They were now chasing 218 from 43 overs. When the players had gone off England’s required run-rate was 4.66; now, without another ball being bowled, they wanted 5.34. What’s more, the usual quota of batting powerplay overs had come down from five to two.
Bell, with calm, and Stokes, with less calm, took England to 131, the highlights a classic late-cut from Bell and a controlled drive over midwicket for six by Stokes. But Dhoni effected a sharp run-out to get rid of Bell and Stokes played around a straight one from Ashwin. Indian fever broke out again. The contest was simmering, and the moon, nearly full, moved to a spot above the pavilion for a better view.
Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan hurried and scurried between the wickets and added the odd boundary to keep England up with the rate. Bresnan should have been caught by Dhoni when he edged Suresh Raina, who bowled five economical overs of spin. When Munaf Patel came back on in the 31st over, it was England’s first look at pace for 17 overs.
Jadeja, brought back on from the Vauxhall End, came up with another intervention when he bowled a static Bresnan in the 39th over. England were happy to take the two powerplay overs with three left in the game.
Bopara drove Ashwin through the covers for four leaving England with 10 to win. He was bowled next ball but it hardly mattered – Graeme Swann played with his usual freedom and saw England home with an over remaining.
Benj Moorehead is staff writer for The Cricketer