Plucky England sneak home
England went 2-0 up in the NatWest Series with two games to play courtesy of a tense three-wicket win in a rain-reduced contest at the Kia Oval.
The home side were set a revised target of 218 for victory off 43 overs when rain brought a mid-innings halt to proceedings, after opener Craig Kieswetter provided the ideal platform with a belligerent 51 from 46 balls containing three fours and as many sixes.
But two wickets fell either side of the rain break that came in the 20th over of England’s reply, to leave them in a spot of bother at 133 for five.
That brought Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan together and, although the Yorkshireman was bowled by Ravindra Jadeja to end a stand of 60, Bopara continued to move England towards victory in assured fashion.
When he brutally cut Ravichandran Ashwin for four in front of square England appeared home and dry with 10 more required, only for Ashwin to provide a further twist and bowl Bopara for 40.
Nevertheless, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann remained composed and, after the latter clubbed Munaf Patel down the ground for four, a single from the next ball sealed victory with seven deliveries to spare.
Jadeja – thrust into action after arriving to supplement India’s injury-ravaged squad yesterday – finished with two wickets to add to fellow spinner Ashwin’s 3-40.
Earlier, the duo put on 59 in 31 balls with some explosive late hitting to help the tourists to 234 for seven from 50 overs, having languished on 58 for five before captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni laid the foundations for recovery with an assured 69.
James Anderson rewarded England captain Alastair Cook’s decision to field in favourable bowling conditions with a supreme opening burst of 3-23 off seven overs to leave the tourists in disarray.
Ajinkya Rahane has been India’s form batsman in the series so far, but when Anderson induced an edge to Jonathan Trott at first slip with the third ball of the match he was back in the pavilion without scoring.
Rahul Dravid came in and, with runs at a premium, he errantly tried to force the pace in the sixth over when he pushed Bresnan into the on side. Anderson swooped in purposefully from mid-on and threw down the stumps with India’s number three well short of his ground.
Parthiv Patel then had his stumps rearranged by a superb inswinger and Virat Kohli ended an uncomfortable stay at the crease by feathering a catch behind, meaning Anderson had a hand in all of the first four wickets to fall in his 150th one-day international.
When Suresh Raina perished caught behind via an ugly waft at Broad, it left Dhoni and Jadeja, who made 78 before holing out to long-on off Jade Dernbach in the final over, to embark upon a sensible rebuilding job with a stand of 112.
After Dhoni lofted Bresnan to Cook at mid-on, Jadeja and Ashwin ensured the batting powerplay did not go to waste, the latter plundering an unbeaten 36 from 19 balls.
Their sensational hitting left England with a trickier evening’s work than they might have earlier anticipated.
After sharing a half-century stand for the first wicket in 54 balls, Cook was trapped lbw by Munaf before Jadeja and Ashwin bowled Kieswetter and Trott respectively, leaving England 95 for three when the rain came.
Upon the resumption Ian Bell looked in supreme touch with back-to-back fours as he crashed Ashwin through midwicket before aiming a delicate backward cut to mark England’s first boundaries in eight overs.
But a sharp piece of fielding from Dhoni, darting from behind his stumps to find a direct hit from short-leg as Bell abandoned a quick single, marked the end of a 42-run partnership with Ben Stokes for the fourth wicket and a vital breakthrough for India.
Stokes struggled to find his rhythm and, despite an colossal blow for six over wide long-on off Jadeja, he could not repeat the trick when Ashwin bowled him round his legs on the slog sweep.
Bopara was joined by Bresnan and moved to settle the nerves by threading a full-toss to the extra-cover boundary two balls later.
India’s slow bowlers largely reined in further expansive strokeplay from that point, but the pair manipulated the strike to greater effect and the fifty partnership came off 55 balls, with boundaries contributing just 12 to that total.
When Bopara thrashed Munaf over midwicket for four England required 28 from the last five overs, but Jadeja proved to be nuisance once again he when was bowled Bresnan for 29 trying to work the ball through the off side.
Bopara refused to be knocked off his stride and it was unfortunate for England he was unable to see through a composed job to the finish in the batting powerplay.