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Batting second proved decisive for India
by Renin Wilben
Nov 27, 2008
India put up another clinical performance at Cuttack to go 5-0 up in the seven-match ODI series against England. There were a number of factors that facilitated India's victory; one of them being MS Dhoni's decision to field first after winning the toss. He termed the dew factor as the rationale behind his choice and after the game he stood vindicated. As both captains agreed at the post match press conference, the dew played a big role in the match when England bowled.

There was no swing or spin, the bowlers could not grip the ball properly and it raced to the boundary once it reached the outfield. In the end, India comfortably chased down a challenging England total.

The dew not withstanding, India were better than England in the other departments too. England got off to a better start in this game but their inability take advantage of the powerplay overs once again led to their undoing as they fell at least 30 runs short of what they should have got. And this was in spite of having two set batsmen like Kevin Pietersen and Owais Shah at the crease. For a change, the Indian pacers went for a few runs but the Englishmen were strangled by the spinners in the middle overs. Yuvraj Singh went for less that four runs an over which did not do England any good.

They themselves used some questionable tactics sending in the struggling Paul Collingwood ahead of the in-form Owais Shah. The latter in fact was pushed down to number six.

Though Collingwood made a reasonable contribution, the ease with which Shah batted in the slog overs proved that they clearly made a mistake by holding him back. Pietersen, who was asking for centuries from his batsmen, decided to come up with one himself. It was an aggressive yet sensible knock and one that gave England hope. Alas even that wasn't good enough to stop the Indian juggernaut.

Virender Sehwag played the perfect counter-attacking knock and set India on its way. The comfort with which the Delhi dasher has been batting in the series has been almost unbelievable. But there is definitely a method to his madness this time round. As he himself revealed, he was aware of what the English bowlers were trying against him and was ready with his answers. This explains why he has four half-centuries from five visits to the crease. In this game, he was ably supported by old warhorse Sachin Tendulkar.

Though Sachin did not look at his best, he put all his valuable experience to work and compiled a dogged half-century. As the innings progressed, there were some trademark strokes; his signature straight drive being the best of the lot.

Though three wickets fell in a hurry for India after a great start, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. With Sehwag having smashed the bowlers to all parts of the ground during his knock, the run rate had come down appreciably.

This allowed Dhoni and Suresh Raina enough time to play themselves in and string a steady partnership. It is exactly what the duo did. Raina needed some runs under his belt and, under the guidance of his captain he came up with a pleasant half-century. Both Dhoni and Raina blossomed once they got their eye in.

England once again failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity they had. As in the earlier games, they were not outplayed yet came out second best.

Pietersen tried his best to keep his soldiers on their toes constantly encouraging them. But with runs coming at will and the irritating dew factor, they were disillusioned much before the game was over. And after Rohit Sharma hit the winning runs, the 'how do we beat India's expression of Kevin Pietersen said it all.
 
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