The fancied Indian batting line up came up croppers in the first ODI at Southampton resulting in a huge loss of 104 runs. Two young guns – Alastair Cook and Ian Bell got England to a formidable 288 for 2 and then Jimmy Anderson came to the party with the ball to bowl the homeside to a comprehensive win at The Rose Bowl.
It was no contest at all once India had lost its first four wickets. Even though Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni were building up a partnership, it was very difficult that India could have pulled out a victory as the required run rate was climbing up well over 7.00 runs per over. Early on, Rahul Dravid won the toss and decided to put England to bat first under overcast conditions. India went with three quicks and the lone spinner in Piyush Chawla. There was no place for Munaf Patel after his lackluster show in the warm-up match against England ‘A’. England dropped Owais Shah while Ryan Sidebottom missed out because of a side strain. The big news was the return of Freddie Flintoff after a long time in International Cricket!
The light conditions were so bad at the start of the match which forced the artificial lights to come into play right from the first ball. The two pacers – Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar bowled a tight first few overs which piled up the pressure on the English Openers – Cook and Prior. The home team started to gain a bit of momentum when Matt Prior lofted Zaheer straight over his head for maximum. He however couldn’t go beyond a 31-ball 19 as he miscued a pick up shot to be caught at mid on off Zaheer. England were 43 for 1 in the 11th over. Although the Indian bowling was economical, the bowlers failed to make complete use of the cloudy conditions because of bowling little too short. Alastair Cook was always looking to play the sheet anchor’s role at one end while Ian Bell, the no.3 was stroking the ball freely. England got a nice momentum going thanks to a few attacking shots from Bell in particular. There was no looking back for this pair as they stretched their partnership to 178. Cook had got to his maiden ODI Century, this innings was the first time that he got past a fifty. Cook finally fell in the 42nd over after getting bowled playing a heave to the onside off RP Singh.
Cook’s dismissal gave way to the big hitting Kevin Pietersen. The left handed opener started off slowly but covered up well to make 102 from 126 with 8 fours. After a few overs, even Ian Bell managed to get a maiden ODI ton. Indian bowlers did quite well in keeping the big sixers down. All Kevin Pietersen could do was hit just the three fours at the end of the innings. Ian Bell stayed unbeaten on a career best 126 which came in just 118 balls with 10 fours and a six. KP got 33 from 25 as England closed their innings at 288 for 2 on a good batting track where the batsmen can go through the line.
The Indian innings was opened by Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and both got their team to a busy start. But Ganguly made a school boy kind of mistake to lose his wicket which got the fielding side pumped up. It all happened when Tendulkar had driven Stuart Broad to the left of Panesar at mid off to complete an easy single. But the problem was that Ganguly at the striker’s end turned completely blind with the bat in his wrong hand, in the right hand rather than the left. And he was just not aware of what was going on and he set off for a non-existent second run and was rightly sent back by Tendulkar. But by then Monty got the run out with an accurate throw back to the keeper. India were 15 for 1 in the 3rd over and soon were in a shocking situation of 34 for 4 in the 12th over. Anderson picked up the three wickets of Gambhir (Caught behind driving to give Anderson his 100th ODI wicket), Tendulkar who had made 17 from 33 (caught at short mid wicket as he played an uppish flick) and then Yuvraj Singh getting an outside edge to gully. The wickets of Tendulkar and Yuvraj came in the 12th over that became the turning point of the game.
Jimmy Anderson bowled 8 overs on the trot and gave nothing away. He was well supported by Stuart Broad who was able to sustain the pressure and Freddie Flintoff banging the ball onto the pitch at red hot pace of over 145kmph. Dravid and Dhoni had a mountain to climb. Flintoff bounced out Dhoni with a quick short pitch delivery that the batsman had gloved behind in an attempted hook shot but that wasn’t go to be out as the bowler had overstepped. That wasn’t going to bring India back into the game. India were going nowhere through the partnership of Dravid and Dhoni which was just delaying an inevitable English victory. The only relief the two batsmen got was when Mascarenhas and Panesar got to bowl their overs. Dravid eventually broke the shackles with a clean six off Monty straight down the ground, but the required run rate stayed out of reach at 8.40. Dhoni fell to the short delivery from Freddie in the 31st over with India barely getting past the 100-run mark. MS Dhoni made an uncharacteristic 19 from 60 balls. Dravid followed him back to the pavilion, caught playing the paddle sweep off Mascarehnas to be brilliantly caught down the legside by Prior.
India managed to bat out the entire overs to be bowled out for 184. Dinesh Karthik remained unbeaten on 44 from 45 with 4 fours. But the highlight of his innings was the two run outs that he was involved in. Jimmy Anderson finished with career best figures of 4 for 23 from 10 overs including two maidens. Freddie had the perfect comeback with superb figures of 1 for 12 in 7 overs. The Man of the Match was Ian Bell for his busy knock. The Second ODI is on the 24th at Bristol.