It was hot and humid, the wicket was seaming and India got off to a bad start in the Kochi ODI. But two turn-arounds, the first triggered by Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, and the second by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s game-winning burst of three wickets, delivered India a big win.
Electing to bat, India posted 285-6, thanks in big part to a frantic 96-run partnership in the last 10 overs between Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who had a great game all-round before a packed crowd at the Nehru Stadium.
England began promisingly despite losing Ian Bell cheaply. But what really did them in was Bhuvaneshwar’s trademark inswing. In one spell, the young seamer from Uttar Pradesh accounted for Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan.
Pietersen, who looked in great touch with a quick 42, had been walking down the wicket to cover Bhuvaneshwar’s swing. It prompted Dhoni to stand up to the stumps to keep Pietersen in the crease. It worked. Rooted to the crease, Pietersen missed an inswinger and the game changed decisively with the wicket.
POOR START, AGAIN
As for India’s batsmen, Kochi was the same old tale playing old. The top and middle order failed, just as it has done all winter long. And so it was left for the lower order to rally around their captain and take the score to respectability.
Jade Dernbach began the day bowling a line that would be perfect for right-handers: on a good length, moving away from the off-stump. For left-handers, it was leg-side filth. He had conceded an astonishing 66% of his runs in the Rajkot ODI behind the wicket on the leg-side. His troubles continued in his first over where he began with a five-wide down the legs of Gambhir.
But Gambhir has had problems of his own. Out of form, the odds were against him. The moment Dernbach managed to land a ball on the cut strip, it bent back into the stumps and found its way through the gap between pad and bat.
Next over, Rahane was bowled by Finn, courtesy a bat-pad gap so large, a Mumbai realtor could have erected a skyscraper on it. Gambhir’s rut, along with Rahane’s inability to cash in on the opportunities given to him at Virender Sehwag’s expense meant that India were once again on the back-foot.
Yuvraj Singh led the counter-attack with some crunching drives. He once stood tall to Dernbach and punched the ball through cover for four, invoking his 19-year-old self who could smoke a ball through the off-side.
Both he and Virat Kohli have been getting off to starts but not producing the big innings. In the last few months, Yuvraj has had plenty of chances in good batting conditions but we’re yet to see the one big performance that would repay the faith posed in him. Today, however, he was unlucky. Sweeping James Tredwell, Yuvraj edged the ball to his pads but umpire Steve Davis still upheld the LBW appeal.
On the other hand, Kohli had himself to blame. Short of runs all winter, he worked hard to 37 off 54. He threw it all away, slicing Chris Woakes to the man on the cover boundary, walking back hitting himself on the head with his own bat.
Raina did better than Yuvraj and Kohli. But with these great batting conditions, he could have made a hundred today. Having worked for his fifty, he was bowled swinging across the line to Steven Finn. It set the stage for the Jadeja and Dhoni show.
This season, Dhoni has been the best of India’s batsmen, at least in the ODIs. But he has continued holding himself down to No. 6 instead of bringing himself up the order and use the chance to make bigger scores.
He had a reprieve on 7 when a caught-behind shout was turned down of Woakes. Replays showed no deviation off the bat but there was a hint of an edge provided by the microphone. Dhoni made England pay for it.
The massive boundaries at the Nehru Stadium have been considerably shortened with the ropes being brought up. Not that this would have mattered to Dhoni. He played some fearsome bottom-hand strokes that rocketed to the fence. He rammed Woakes down the ground and then brought out his helicopter shot against Finn and Dernbach.
But the differentiator of the day was Jadeja’s. India were looking at best at a score of 250 when Jadeja got over his tentative start — thanks to Dhoni's timely tempering of the young player — and started lofting the pacers. England bowled a poor line to him. Jadeja kept slogging the leg-and-middle balls over the infield. He took 20 off the final over from Dernbach, providing the icing to an extraordinary finish to the innings.