England leave India with a win

5TH ODI: Bell strikes hundred on Dharamsala's ODI debut.

The HPCA Stadium (file photo)

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| Beautiful cricket grounds

In a cold town in the foothills of the Himalayas, England’s tour of India ended with a win. The beautiful HPCA Stadium at Dharamsala was making its ODI debut today. The mood was light. The pace of the game was relaxed. The jumpers, ski caps and mufflers were out. The series had been settled in Mohali. And another Indian batting collapse allowed England the luxury of a small target of 228.

Ian Bell ended a mixed bag tour with an unbeaten 113 – his highest ODI score away. With Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan rallying around him usefully, the target proved no great shakes despite the run-a-ball rate needed towards the end of the game.

Tim Bresnan, who’d struggled with his lines through the series, led the wicket-takers in the game with 4-45. But it was Steven Finn and James Tredwell who controlled the game wonderfully with their nagging accuracy. If anything England would want to improve on in this game, it would be their catching.

RAINA SHINES AGAIN

Raina notched up his fourth straight fifty of the series. Suresh Raina rescued India with his fourth fifty in four outings in the series. His partnership of 78 with Ravindra Jadeja put India on the mend after their top-order had been blown away cheaply.

Raina was missed by Tredwell at slip when he was on five, and then by Cook on 61. Tredwell also missed a difficult return catch off Jadeja while Samit Patel put down a much easier one late in the innings off Shami Ahmed. Some of these misses, mattered, some didn’t because the new ball had done most of the work for England.

Before one had put gone through the first cup of coffee this morning, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh had departed, all for one scoring stroke between the three of them. Rohit and Virat chased outswingers from Bresnan while Yuvraj tried to play a swinging ball from Finn towards mid-wicket.

Gautam Gambhir, who hasn’t made a big score all winter, hung around for 24 before cutting Tredwell in the air to point’s hands. The off-colour left-hander is at the end of his rope, and if he is picked for the upcoming Tests against Australia, he should buy himself a lottery ticket.

What broke India’s back was the wicket of MS Dhoni, courtesy an in-swinger from Finn that hit him in front of middle and leg. With some luck, Jadeja and Raina mended the innings.

The highlight of the partnership was their waiting for loose balls from the spinners. They stepped down the wicket and cleared the sight-screen each time Tredwell, Patel and Root tossed the ball up. The footwork, timing of the drives and the distances they flew earned the approval of Sourav Ganguly, who knows a thing or two about punishing spinners.

There was a refreshing cameo at the end by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. We knew he has made some tall scores in domestic cricket, but it was good to see the young seamer come out to slap the bowlers around for a madcap 30 in the slog overs.

At the end of it all, the world’s No. 1 and 2 would like to see if they’ve lived up to their billing. England leave India having enhanced their reputations as players of spin bowling. They scored a landmark win in the Tests, lost the ODIs, but as Dhoni pointed out after the game, it was a tight series that hinged on one or two key moments – Pietersen’s caught-behind in Ranchi, for example. Tredwell filled in beautifully for Graeme Swann and Finn showed he is a great long-term prospect.

For India, Bhuvaneshwar and Shami continued to bowl economically, but the great relief was to see Ishant Sharma get a grip of his line and length as a first-change bowler. The batting continues to be a worry. The openers are out of form, Virat Kohli too is in a rut, and Yuvraj has tended to shine only when the going’s good. It’d be interesting to see how India prepare for their batting problems when Australia come visiting next month.

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