It was Ranchi’s ODI debut and India gave the locals a day to remember. After bowling England out for 155, India chased down the runs with ease to take a 2-1 lead in the series. But one of the things that India can draw strength from, especially in this testing phase they’re going through, is the fine performance of their rookie seamers, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed.
The new-ball duo took just two wickets between them. But often such figures belie their true impact on the game. They bowled at a decent pace, swung the ball and maintained a tough line and length through their spells – just as they have through their short international careers.
In no mood to let England dictate terms, they set the stage up for their more experienced colleagues – Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – and they engineered a fine demolition job of the English line-up.
England were 68-1 in the 15th when umpire S. Ravi erroneously upheld a caught-behind appeal against Kevin Pietersen. He had hit his pad while the ball itself may have deflected off his trouser. To Pietersen’s shock, the umpire ruled in favour of India’s spontaneous appeal. Jadeja and Ashwin found their sweet spot on the pitch and the English middle-order once again showed their susceptibility against spin.
Eoin Morgan did what Mike Gatting had infamously tried against Allan Border for the same result. Jadeja then worked out Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel with straight balls – one bowled, the other LBW. But the ball of the day was perhaps by Ashwin – a flighted ball just around the driving length spun back sharply into Tim Bresnan, entering the large gap between bat and pad and into the top of the stumps.
GREAT LINE AND LENGTH
It’s hard to remember the last occasion when two Indian seamers troubled the opposition for the extent of their quota of overs — particularly in batting-friendly Indian conditions such as this. Bhuvaneshwar, with that in-swinger from hell, kept bending the ball into the right-hander and away from the left-hander.
With an economical action and a beautiful, upright seam, he has caused much trouble to Pakistani and English batsmen this winter. But international cricket is a tough arena and a player’s weaknesses tend to be identified quickly. So it’d be interesting to see how the young seamer from Uttar Pradesh retains the gift for in-swing while developing more skills — such as bowling the closing overs — to prolong his career.
His new-ball partner, Shami Ahmed, has shown uncommon maturity for someone playing just his third international game. He has a gift for line and length and he stuck to what he was good at. The wicket offered extra bounce and Shami and with Bhuvaneshwar kept hammering away at a spot short of good length.
It was also great to see Ashwin get his bearings right today. In the previous games, he had bowled a scattershot line and tried too many variations. Today, he bowled a tight line just outside off – what many would consider ideal for off-spinners. The results: 10 overs, 37 runs and two wickets. In between, Ishant chipped in with the wickets of Pietersen and Joe Root at key moments of the game.
While India’s bowling has been top-notch, some of the batting problems remain. Steven Finn found his way through Ajinkya Rahane’s defence for the second time this series. Rahane has come in for Sehwag and has yet to make a healthy contribution up the order.
His opening partner, Gautam Gambhir worked hard for 33 but threw it away trying to hit James Tredwell across the line over mid-on. Yuvraj Singh then raced to 30 with some big hits but missed a straight ball from Tredwell.
Virat Kohli overcame a trying spell from Finn in which he top-edged a couple of bouncers over the wicketkeeper. But once set, he let loose the pulls, flicks and cover-drives that powered him to a match-winning half-century. The innings was long due, and runs for him would mean one worry less for the team management.
The nice touch in the end was of Mahendra Singh Dhoni coming out to bat to a loud cheer from his home crowd. When Dhoni had started playing for India, Ranchi was a cricketing outpost. It didn’t have a proper stadium. Yesterday, Dhoni was hit on the left thumb by a bouncer in practice. There were concerns over his fitness. But the Indian captain didn't let the knock spoil the occasion. He took part in the inauguration function in the evening and even got on stage to beat a drum. And it was fitting that one the day the HEC International Cricket Complex made its international debut, it was Ranchi’s favourite son who finished off the match with a pull for four.