At 114 for 7, chasing a target of 213, England were written out of the fourth ODI at Old Trafford. India were just minutes away from leveling the series with a second win. It was just the matter of one wicket and then it was just about the no. 10 and no. 11 for the Indian bowlers. But before that they had to dislodge Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad. This was when everything just went so flat from the Indian point of view. The Captaincy wasn’t proactive, the bowlers weren’t putting in a full intensity and the fielders starting to relax on their heels. While Ravi Bopara did what he is asked to, bat according to his abilities irrespective of the situation, but for Broad, it was a matter of believing in himself that he had the game to bat out for enough time to get England to 214. Bopara and Broad succeeded in their mission as the Indian bowlers paid penalty for not showing any urgency in their wicket taking efforts. England stunned India with a three-wicket win to go 3-1 up. Now this defeat has meant that the Indians need to win all the remaining three games to clinch the 7-match series and that look’s very difficult.
Old Trafford in Manchester was supposed to be a happy ground for India. The track for the fourth ODI had the extra bounce and a dry look at it suggested that the Indian spinners would have a huge role to play. Rahul Dravid just keeps on winning the toss, it’s another matter whether he has the same luck when it comes to winning matches. He decided that India would bat first and put up a huge total. There was the one change in the line-up with Ajit Agarkar coming in for Munaf Patel. England were boosted by the return of Freddie who replaced Chris Tremlett and Collingwood, their Skipper just made it after suffering a virus bout.
Batting first, the visitors needed a platform to get to a big total but they got the complete opposite of that. They lost three wickets to the new ball which put them right on the backfoot. The top order collapse began when Sourav Ganguly’s predetermined pull and hook shots were not good enough to tackle the extra pace and bounce off this Old Trafford wicket. The third ODI at Edgbaston saw Ganguly play a very slow innings and it looked as if he was looking to overcompensate in this match for his sins. It was only the 4th over that Ganguly (9 from 14) went for the big hook only to be caught at short mid wicket as Jimmy Anderson simply bounced him out. After scratching around without any purpose for 20 deliveries, Dinesh Karthik did a favour by nicking a short and wide delivery from Broad to Prior. All Dinesh Karthik could achieve was an inside edge for a boundary. Tendulkar had to watch yet another wicket go down and this time it was Rahul Dravid, the best batsman of the side in English conditions. It was the Flintoff factor that came into play, hitting the deck hard and getting Dravid to edge a delivery around the offstump to have India reduced to 32 for 3 after 12 overs. A wicket off his first over was what Freddie gave for his side and that too Dravid’s!
India were in serious trouble but at the same time it was a unique opportunity for Yuvraj to walk in with as many as 38 overs left, enough time perhaps to score an 8th ODI century. With Tendulkar, he started to repair the damage done and India saw the threat of the three fast bowlers. Sachin Tendulkar got to his 81st fifty in as many balls but he couldn’t convert that into a bigger score. Shockingly he got out to Kevin Pietersen’s short delivery that he pulled into the waiting hands of Flintoff at deep mid wicket. He went for the six but ended up losing his wicket, that was about Tendulkar, who made 55 from 86 balls with 9 fours leaving the park at 103 for 4 in the 30th over. India now had to look for a score of 220 but that looked tough to achieve when MS Dhoni was cleaned up by a magic delivery from Monty that drifted onto middle and turned away quickly to beat the defence and disturb the stumps. Dhoni got 13 from 18 with a boundary in a partnership of 37 with Yuvraj. Ajit Agarkar came and went in the matter of five minutes and now India were seriously good enough to make just 180. But Yuvraj with two fours and a six off a Stuart Broad over got some unexpected momentum for India in the final overs. Broad did have his revenge though as he yorked Yuvraj around his legs. It was a superb innings from Yuvraj as he got 71 facing 104 balls with the help of 5 fours and a six. India through a ninth wicket partnership of 31 between Piyush Chawla and Zaheer got to 212 before they were bowled out with two balls left. Piyush made an unbeaten 11 and Zaheer, an important 20 with three boundaries. Stuart Broad with a career best of 4 for 51 in his 10 overs and Anderson with 3 for 38 in 9.4 overs. Flintoff was the man who choked the runs with his 1 for 31 in 10 that had three maidens!
Under lights, the ball was coming onto the bat nicely but at the same time the bowlers could use the skidding conditions to good effect. That was what happened when Zaheer had surprised Alastair Cook with a sharp incoming delivery that crashed through his gate. After having set up the left hander with a couple of outgoing balls, Zaheer got Cook baffled with one that did the opposite that had him playing along the wrong line. Cook gone for a duck leaving a wicket maiden for Zaheer off the first over of the innings. Ajit Agarkar got rid of the other opener and that was Prior, who has just one game and that is to play his shots whatever be the situation. Prior’s upper cut in just the fifth ball he was facing sailed straight into the hands of Powar at third man to have England at 14 for 2 in the 4th over. India still had plenty of work to get back in the game as Bell was in prime form and KP due for a big one.
Bell lived dangerously in the slip cordon, but every time he went hard at the ball to give no chance for any catches. He however couldn’t go onto make a score this time as he misjudged an inswinger from Agarkar to which he didn’t offer any shot to be clean bowled. England 35 for 3 in the 6th. The good thing for England was that the runs were coming thick and fast with the wicket playing good. And through their next partnership between Kevin Pietersen and Collingwood, things started to get back to normalcy. It was a completely rubbish shot that got KP out, an arrogant hook shot to a clever bouncer was enough to lose his wicket. Agarkar threw the challenge to KP which he could have so easily refused by ducking under the bouncer thinking about the long term interest of his team in the contest of the match. But that didn’t happen and he deservingly got out at mid wicket. Infact Pietersen was very lucky that he wasn’t given lbw to Zaheer who had him dead in front of the stumps but for Aleem Dar’s rescue act. If one though KP was mad to play the hook shot, then they need to have a rethink as Andrew Flintoff playing just his eight delivery decided to play a flashy drive on the rise only to be caught at point. The dismissal showed that Freddie has seriously got to work out on his temperament as that was a talent that got wasted. Ajit Agarkar was the wicket taker once again.
England were at 95 for 5 in the 17th over. They still had three specialist batsmen left. And two of them departed starting off with Owais Shah. In the 22nd over, Ramesh Powar got one to loop and bounce to catch the inside edge in the forward defence from Shah and Dravid’s move of having a short leg paid off brilliantly. Collingwood too got dismissed very soon as he nervously took off for a non-existent single to fall short of his crease at the striker’s end. By then Collingwood was batting so well with 47 from 55 with 7 fours. It was just a suicidal run from the England Captain when Bopara had played a shot straight to RP Singh at point. England at 114 for 7 with Bopara left to steer them to an unlikely victory. India had lot of runs to defend, still another 99 and just three more wickets to take. It wasn’t going to be difficult with the spinners having plenty of assistance from the wicket. But for Dravid, Piyush Chawla disappointed by bowling mostly on the shorter side. Powar was alright but never looking threatening as he simply didn’t possess a doosra that could have kept Broad guessing. Each and every run scored by Bopara and Broad slowly got the hopes back for England. As time went by, they started to eat away at the target by simple basic cricket and India brought under immense pressure. The fielders started to make mistake and the two batsmen made everything counted with their brilliant running.
With England almost getting there, Dravid had to resort back to Zaheer, but the left armer bowled an uninspiring spell of two overs that was taken for plenty by Broad and soon England were in striking distance of the target. Dravid tried out several bowling options but in vain. One thing he missed out was introducing Tendulkar early into the attack. Tendulkar was given the ball but that was when the match had gone out of control. Bopara and Broad gave no chance and in the 48th over, victory was accomplished thanks to this new eight wicket record partnership for England. Bopara unconquered on 43 from 82 with 3 fours and Broad on 45 from 73 with 3 fours were the heroes for England. On a track that had lot of turn and bounce, the two Indian spinners could get only a wicket in their 20 overs and once again the lack of having a genuine fast bowler hurt India so badly in dismantling the lower order. The Man of the Match award had to go to only Stuart Broad as it was his match completely.