England left in a spin
England’s run of success against India came to an abrupt end as they suffered a 126-run defeat in the first one-day international in Hyderabad.
Rightfully lauded for their performances during a hugely successful summer, England were left with much to ponder at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium as they subsided to 174 all out on a dry and dusty surface.
Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin were chiefly responsible for the tourists’ demise, the spinners combining to pick up five wickets in eight overs after England had eased to 111 for two on the back of a fluent 60 from captain Alastair Cook, who later bemoaned his failure to win the toss.
Left-armer Jadeja finished with 3-34 from seven overs, while off-spinner Ashwin chipped in with 3-35 as England's last eight wickets went down for 63.
The swift nature of England’s collapse represents cause for concern, particularly in the wake of a series of below-par performances at this year’s World Cup on the sub-continent, although it should not be forgotten that this team have frequently bounced back strongly from poor performances in recent years.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with 87 not out from 70 deliveries, and Suresh Raina, who dashed to 61 from 55, had earlier powered India to an imposing 300 for seven after wickets had fallen frequently in the first half of the innings.
On a pitch offering little in the way of pace and bounce, both batsmen exhibited their ability to hit powerfully through the line and England’s bowlers came in for heavy punishment from the moment the batting powerplay was taken in the 35th over, with the score on 150.
Graeme Swann had bowled out by that point, having conceded just one boundary en route to superb figures of 1-35 from 10.
Praveen Kumar was immediately on the money at the start of England’s reply and, after opening up with a maiden to Cook, had Craig Kieswetter caught behind as the opener played loosely away from his body.
Cook collected elegant fours on either side of the wicket as Praveen’s next over went for 16, but Kevin Pietersen, promoted to three ahead of Jonathan Trott, was unable to settle.
After being struck on the bicep and glove by Vinay Kumar, the Surrey batsman was run out when he tried to steal a single to mid-on that was never there and was beaten by Ashwin’s direct hit.
England skipper Cook, strong through midwicket and behind square on the off side, kept the scoreboard ticking over at a healthy rate with a succession of boundaries.
He was untroubled in reaching 50 at a run a ball, while the ever-reliable Trott also appeared at ease as he accumulated steadily.
With India’s bowlers posing little threat, it was a surprise to see Cook chip Jadeja tamely to Vinay on the leg-side boundary in the 23rd over, but worse was to follow as Trott, aiming an ugly swipe across the line, was bowled in Jadeja's next over for 26.
When Ravi Bopara was caught and bowled by Ashwin eight balls later, having been beaten in the flight, India were rampant and Jonny Bairstow duly provided Jadeja with a simple return catch - the all-rounder’s third wicket in as many overs - before Tim Bresnan was stumped off a leg-side wide from Ashwin.
Young seamer Umesh Yadav then got in on the act by bowling Swann, with one that kept low, and Samit Patel, but it was fitting that the final wicket should fall to spin - Jade Dernbach bowled as he looked to mow Ashwin to leg.
Dhoni’s men had been kept in check for much of their innings and saw both openers fall cheaply inside the first 12 overs.
Parthiv Patel was run out in unfortunate fashion when Steven Finn got his fingertips to an Ajinkya Rahane straight-drive and disturbed the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Rahane, dropped at slip by Trott before he had got off the mark, never looked comfortable and his unconvincing innings was brought to an end in Swann’s first over when he danced past a flighted delivery and was stumped by Kieswetter.
England made another breakthrough in the 18th over when the previously assured Gautam Gambhir played across the line to a Dernbach slower ball and was trapped lbw for 33.
Virat Kohli and Raina were forced to rein in their natural attacking instincts as they looked to rebuild, but the former also departed, on 37, when he chipped Patel to long-off, where Pietersen judged his leap to perfection and avoided stepping over the rope as he landed.
After 34 overs, India had just 139 on the board, but both Dhoni and Raina collected off-side fours in the 35th over, bowled by Bopara.
That proved the cue for a dramatic shift in momentum and, with the batting powerplay coming in to force, boundaries started to flow freely.
Raina reached his sixth half-century against England with a powerful straight six off Bresnan and another maximum followed, over long-off, in a Finn over that had started with Dhoni cracking consecutive fours down the ground and over cover.
Left-handed Raina paid the price for attempting another big shot when he sliced the Middlesex seamer’s next ball high into the air. Bairstow, included in England’s team at the expense of Ian Bell, made no mistake at backward point.
Dhoni continued to excel, however, and received excellent support from Jadeja, who struck back-to-back sixes off Patel before being run out by Bresnan, off his own bowling, for 27 off 22 balls.
Ashwin was also run out by Finn in the penultimate over, but the irrepressible Dhoni would not be shifted and lifted his team to 300 with a series of thunderous strikes.
The target was to prove well beyond England’s reach.