Dhawan's ton keeps India openers on toes

New Delhi, Jan. 8 -- A cut between point and third-man fetched Shikhar Dhawan a six. That helped set the tone for Delhi's brilliant chase of 294, making sure England XI go into the ODI series after losing both their warm-up games.

Two days earlier, the visitors had come a cropper against India 'A', whose bowlers had pegged back a batting line-up that included Kevin Pietersen. On Tuesday, KP was rested and still England ran up a solid total that appeared good enough at the Ferozshah Kotla.

But Delhi's left-handed opener produced a blistering ton (off 98 balls with three sixes) to not just guide the chase but also make a strong claim for a spot in the national team struggling to find openers. Dhawan had scored runs in the Challenger Series, Duleep and Ranji Trophy and this effort will only add more weight to his claims.

Again in vain

Ian Bell, who scored 91 in the defeat against India 'A', followed it up with a century and the onus was on England's attack comprising tall and strong pacemen to get a rather youthful Delhi out cheaply.

But thanks to England bowlers failing to produce much movement and the rather shortish length they bowled on a perfect one-day wicket, Delhi romped home by six wickets. Young Milind Kumar and Rajat Bhatia picked up from where Dhawan had left, maintaining the scoring momentum till the end. Spinner James Tredwell, the most successful English bowler, was asked whether the pacemen missed a trick by going all out. "It wasn't our plan to go all out and get them by bowling short and wide."

With the India batsmen struggling, the performance of the England pacemen was closely followed. And Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya and chief selector Chetan Chauhan gave their verdict - Pakistan were a better bowling side.

"The wickets in the Pakistan series though were more bowler-friendly," said Dahiya.

"We didn't execute our skills properly, bowl in the proper areas," bemoaned Tredwell. That could be a challenge, considering they play their first two games in Rajkot and Kochi, which are considered batsmen-friendly. While India are still coming to grips with changes in the ODI rules, Tredwell admitted that the new rule of having only four fielders outside the circle is something they will have to adapt to. Dahiya too felt it was a challenge and will remain so initially on batting surfaces.

Brief scores: England 294/5 in 50 overs (I Bell 108, E Morgan 52; V Sood 3/45); Delhi 295/4 in 48.3 overs (S Dhawan 110, M Kumar 78 no, R Bhatia 45 no; J Tredwell 2/49).

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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