MOHALI: With one innings, the feelings that Rohit Sharma invokes among Indian cricket fans shifted from one extreme to another. On one extreme are the annoyances he causes: how poorly he had handled his early fame and success, and the bad habit of wasting the many chances given to him. Then, there are the bright sparks we saw today: the gift of sublime timing, the late dabs and glides square off the wicket, drives down the ground that makes your jaw drop, and the ability to absorb pressure in a big game. That last one you associate only with the best in the game.
Rohit’s innings of 83 today set up their chase of 258, with Suresh Raina finishing off the job in some style with a muscular 89. The five-wicket win gave India the series, helping them justify in some measure their inexplicably-claimed No. 1 rank despite the poor show against Pakistan recently.
It was a cold day in Mohali. The PCA Stadium emerged out of a thick coat of fog this morning to be ready just about in time for the fourth game of the series. India elected to field and one Mumbai player made way for another. Ajinkya Rahane has had plenty of chances this winter and has done little to repay the faith posed in him after being brought in as Virender Sehwag’s replacement. It meant that the other prodigal talent in the team — Rohit — finally got a hit. Meanwhile, Cheteshwar Pujara warmed the bench another day while his state side Saurashtra prepares for the Ranji Trophy final beginning on Saturday.
It’s amazing how much talent hides in the recesses of India's middle-order while their opening combinations stumble from one failure to another. Sehwag and Rahane’s failures aside, Gautam Gambhir has struggled to produce an innings of note for long. Today, he made 10 before nudging Tim Bresnan into Jos Buttler’s gloves. But Rohit has succeeded at the top of the order, and with the series sealed the Indian think-tank could consider the entirely radical idea of playing two part-time openers in the final game in Dharamsala. How else is Pujara going to get his chance?
ROHIT, RAINA SHOW THE WAY
Dropped on 12 by Kevin Pietersen at cover, Rohit played some delectable strokes today. An on-drive and pull off Steven Finn, some clever footwork against James Tredwell and he was on his way. Tredwell brought England back with the wickets of Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, but the innings by Raina settled matters.
Raina had a let-off when Finn had him caught at slip – except that the ball was called dead by umpire Steve Davis because the pacer had once again knocked the stumps in his delivery stride. Raina was on 42 at the time and it was a series-defining moment.
Finn has had this problem for long and the teams had agreed to the dead ball rule for this series for such cases. Alastair Cook was seen remonstrating with the umpire. The same umpire and bowler were involved in another such incident in last year’s Headingley Test where South Africa captain Graeme Smith was caught at slip but given not out for the same reason.
Finn was the best of England’s bowlers today, generating nice pace and bounce. He eventually dismissed Rohit – courtesy a dubious LBW decision by Davis when the ball seemed like it would fly past leg-stump. Tim Bresnan and Jade Dernbach disappointed. In batting-friendly conditions, Dernbach hasn’t found his line and length all through the tour and has offered easy runs to India – one reason why England are 1-3 down in the series with a game left.
ROOT, JADEJA IMPRESSES AGAIN
Earlier, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Joe Root struck fifties taking England to what would have been a good score had their seam bowlers found their bearings. Pietersen struggled at the start of his innings. He was 2 off 23 balls and couldn’t get bat to ball with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma bowling tight lines. But his innings blossomed, putting England on course of a late recovery.
Alastair Cook worked hard for 76 before being done in by a poor umpiring decision. The ball from Ravichandran Ashwin had pitched outside the leg-stump. It’s one of the many poor decisions in the series and is sure to revive the talk over DRS again.
Joe Root and Pietersen helped add 100 runs in the last 10 overs. Root, with the calmness and maturity of a veteran, struck his first ODI fifty off 43 balls. He is the one to watch out for in the England set-up.