Giles offers bare-chested hope
Should England need encouragement for getting back into the one-day series with India, they need look no further than selector Ashley Giles.
Giles is not in India, but is only a phone call away - as he was when he recalled England’s famous comeback the 2001-02 rubber between the sides for ecb.co.uk.
Like Alastair Cook’s tourists on Friday, Nasser Hussain’s side lost the opener. India then took a 3-1 lead with two games to play, but Giles returned to instigate a recovery that earned a share of a series much remembered for Andrew Flintoff’s shirtless celebration in Mumbai.
Giles, the former left-arm spinner, claimed his joint international-best return in the penultimate game at Delhi, where England face Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team tomorrow in the second contest of five.
Unlike this tour, the 2001-02 trip included Tests. The hosts convincingly won the first, in Mohali, but the second and third, at Ahmedabad and Bangalore respectively, were drawn. In the latter Giles, instructed by Hussain to bowl a leg-side line, infamously had Sachin Tendulkar stumped - the first time the ‘Little Master’ was dismissed that way.
England returned to the sub-continent in January and Giles, who missed much of the previous summer and the entire autumn one-day rubber in Zimbabwe, was restored to the side for the first ODI at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Marcus Trescothick’s 121 from 109 balls gave England hope of chasing 282, but they came up 22 short.
Giles recalled: “It’s one of those places, the old Eden Gardens particularly, you want to play at. It’s one of the feature grounds in world cricket because of its capacity, the sheer size, the atmosphere, just a brilliant occasion.
“We lost the game but we gave it a good run in the end. We were actually well up with the rate; Tres got a hundred and we got quite close, but we lost wickets at the end.
“Great occasion; I loved it. Looking back now as a retired old cricketer, playing at Eden Gardens is a fabulous honour really.”
Giles’ six overs there cost 41 and he was dropped for the next three games: a 16-run England win at Cuttack before comfortable India victories in Chennai and Kanpur.
Despite not being able to lose the series, Giles believes the onus was still on the hosts to win the last two matches.
“Those guys were under pressure because of the intensity of the coverage of cricket in India,” he said. “They were expected to win so we went out with a fair amount of freedom just to play.”
At Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla ground Nick Night’s steady 105 set India 272. Sourav Ganguly then attacked Giles, striking three sixes in his first four overs to leave India well placed at 162 for three after 32.
However, Giles returned to make the home skipper the first of five victims in four overs, earning figures of 5-57 and aiding a two-run win.
“I remember bowling my first few overs,” he added. “I went for a few in my first three or four - 30-odd in four, Ganguly got after me.
“I came back on and tried round the wicket and it worked, tucked him up, got in there and got a few wickets.
“From a place where I was feeling pretty dejected having come back into the side and gone for a few in the first four overs and looked like losing the game again, to get 5-57 just like that was brilliant.”
Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium hosted the decider where Trescothick’s 95 and Flintoff’s late 40 countered Harbhajan Singh’s 5-43 to help England post 255 all out.
“I remember us being a bit short; we were in a good position to get a quite good score and then we lost a lot of wickets at the end. Harbhajan bowled us out and Freddie got runs at the end,” Giles said.
Ganguly had India on course for victory, but Giles breaching his defence on 80 kept England in the game. Flintoff then struck thrice, including twice in the last over, to seal a five-run triumph which the all-rounder marked by whipping off his top.
“We had nothing to lose again so in the field it was a case of putting everything on the line to put, by hook or by crook, stop them getting a good total,” Giles added.
“The atmosphere was electric so it was great fielding second in that. With Tendulkar coming out, the noise, you couldn’t hear yourself think. And at the end, the birth of ‘Fred’ I suppose. Him taking his shirt off, I’m not sure he’d want to do that nowadays.
“But it was a magnificent feeling because it was our last game as well. It had been a tough series. There had been quite a lot of trouble, a bit of ups and downs, but the team really came together and we were travelling to New Zealand that night, or the next day, so it was a great way to leave India.
“We just loved it. There was a great team spirit but in the field we scrapped and we dived and every single run was absolutely crucial. I remember that feeling quite well. It was wonderful; everyone was absolutely over that moon.”
Giles rates that 3-3 draw alongside several remarkable Test series victories abroad he was involved in: Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2000-01, West Indies in 2003-04 plus South Africa in 2004-05.
“It’s up there. We had a good side, we had some good lads. Those were the days,” he reminisced.