Yuvraj blasts India to victory
India’s batsmen, led by a masterclass from Yuvraj Singh, launched a blistering assault on England’s attack to take a 158-run win in the opening one-day international of their seven-match series in Rajkot.
India posted a competitive 387 for five after being put into bat on a pitch which showed some signs of grass and moisture, with a brilliant 138 not out from Yuvraj underpinning the hosts’ effort.
It was Yuvraj’s ninth one-day century and came off just 63 balls. It was the fastest scored against England in ODI history, and the second fastest by any India batsman.
Despite an innings of 63 from captain Kevin Pietersen and a late flurry from Ravi Bopara, England were never in the hunt reaching 229 all out as wickets fell steadily throughout their innings.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had punished the England bowlers early on, with the latter being particularly brutal during Stuart Broad’s opening spell. He combined aggression with some deft touches - a tickle to the third man boundary bringing up his personal milestone of 2,000 ODI runs.
Paul Collingwood, playing in his 150th one-day international, also came in for some harsh treatment. He entered the attack in the 17th over and was immediately hoisted for two sixes by Sehwag, the second of which brought up his 30th ODI half-century.
Gambhir brought up his 50 with a single off Andrew Flintoff, but four balls later he chipped Samit Patel into the air for Owais Shah to take the catch at long-off, with the score on 127 for one.
That became 153 for two after Patel got Sehwag thanks to a brilliant diving one-handed catch by Ian Bell at midwicket.
Sehwag had started the over by launching Patel for six over long-on, with 19 runs coming from the first five deliveries, before he was dismissed off the last ball, which he hit hard into the leg-side and was caught for 85.
Suresh Raina hit the returning James Anderson for six down the ground and followed it up with another maximum off Broad to bring up the 200. Pietersen was not immune to Raina’s bat either, as he swiped the England captain into the leg-side for his third six of the innings.
A back spasm did not seem to affect Yuvraj’s ability to strike the ball, as he smacked Flintoff for six in the first over of the third powerplay, taken after 34 overs, and did the same to Steve Harmison in the next.
Flintoff claimed his only wicket of the innings when Raina (43) chipped him to Collingwood at backward point, who took a good catch diving to his right and Harmison then got rid of Yusuf Pathan for a duck when the all-rounder hit him lamely into the air for Bell to take a simple catch.
India’s 300 was reached with yet another six from Yuvraj who played the shot on one knee as 17 runs came off the 44th over, bowled by Patel, leaving the spinner with figures of 2-78 from his nine overs.
A beautifully-timed six by Yuvraj also brought up the 350, this time off Flintoff, and was the sixth of the left-hander’s innings, which also contained 16 fours.
A quickfire 39 from captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni ensured India’s dominance, before he was bowled by Harmison, with Yuvraj left unbeaten on 138 from 78 balls and Rohit Sharma on 11 not out off eight.
India’s total was the highest conceded by England in one-day internationals, and it left the visitors with too tough a task.
They lost their first wicket with 12 on the board when Matt Prior was caught at second slip by Sehwag off Munaf Patel. A similar shot and outcome accounted for Shah, who fell to Zaheer Khan for a duck.
Bell put up a fight, making 25 off 35 balls, before he edged Zaheer behind for Dhoni to take the catch, and the bowler got his third when he trapped Flintoff lbw.
It was 76 for five when Collingwood departed, edging RP Singh - in the team for the injured Ishant Sharma - through for Dhoni to take his second catch.
Pietersen consolidated alongside Patel and brought up his half-century off 46 balls, figures helped by two sixes off the bowling of Pathan. Patel also got in on the act, with a brace of big hits off the occasional spin of Sehwag.
But Harbhajan Singh got his man as Dhoni effected the stumping, leaving Patel stranded on 28 and bringing the recalled Bopara to the crease.
It was Bopara’s eagerness to up the run-rate which contributed to Pietersen’s downfall, run-out by Sharma as he attempted a quick single.
Steve Harmison fell the same way without facing a ball, after Broad had become the eighth wicket to go down when he picked out Gambhir at long-on for a run-a-ball 26.
Bopara used the slog-sweep to good effect in scoring 54 not out, including five sixes, but it was too little too late for England as they were dismissed when Anderson was out lbw to Pathan with 12.2 overs remaining.