England seal series with thrilling tie
England secured the NatWest Series and maintained their unbeaten record against India this summer in dramatic fashion as rain ensured the fourth one-day international at Lord’s ended in a tie.
Ravi Bopara had underpinned the hosts’ pursuit of 281 with a superbly-paced innings of 96, but his dismissal off the penultimate ball of the 49th over, with 11 required for victory, proved to be the last act of the game.
As Bopara trooped dejectedly back to the pavilion, having holed out to deep midwicket off Munaf Patel, the rain that had earlier forced two brief stoppages returned and brought proceedings to a premature close.
Had the Essex batsman blocked the final delivery of his 111-ball innings, England would have triumphed, although he could not have known that play was about to end.
The same can be said for Graeme Swann, who contributed 31 to a rapid 50 partnership before being run out from the ball that preceded Bopara’s exit.
As was the case when these two teams played out a memorable tie in Bangalore earlier this year at the World Cup, both will undoubtedly have mixed emotions over the result.
With three overs remaining and 19 needed, Alastair Cook's men looked to be in control. However, moments later they were back in the role of underdogs, their cause not helped by Stuart Broad dropping down the order to 11 after injuring himself earlier in the match.
The tourists, beaten in all four npower Tests, the solitary Twenty20 fixture at Old Trafford and the previous two ODIs, had earlier posted an imposing total of 280 for five after being put in to bat for a fourth successive match.
Their recovery from 110 for four was orchestrated by Suresh Raina and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who shared a thrilling stand of 169 from 143 balls – an India record for the fifth wicket against England.
After rebuilding intelligently following the loss of two wickets in Swann’s first set of six, Raina and Dhoni had delivered a wonderful exhibition of power-hitting to ensure 95 runs came from the final eight overs of India’s innings.
The captain finished unbeaten on 78 from 71 balls, while Raina, who has looked a different player in this format to the one who struggled so desperately in the Tests, dashed to 84 from 75.
England’s reply was undermined by the loss of three early wickets, but Ian Bell and Bopara shared 98 at a healthy rate to keep their side in the hunt.
The former departed for 54, but Bopara, whose previous highest score in ODIs was 60, continued to hold firm and shared stands of 47 and 50 with Tim Bresnan and Swann respectively before falling at the final hurdle.
Steven Finn, recalled in place of Jade Dernbach in the only change to either side, looked the most likely to make an early breakthrough this morning as Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane rode their luck in an opening stand of 65.
Only nine runs were scored in the first five overs, but boundaries then came thick and fast, through a mixture of accomplished strokeplay and good fortune, before Broad was introduced, in place of Finn at the Pavilion End, to bowl the 14th over.
The flamboyant Rahane, who had just started to settle into his stride following a host of false shots early on in his innings, fell to Broad’s third delivery when he missed a dipping low full toss and was adjudged lbw for 38.
Parthiv had looked far more fluent in reaching 27, but, having enjoyed success with the pull stroke, he then top-edged a back-of-a-length delivery in Broad’s next over and Bopara held on to a steepling chance just yards from the wicket on the leg side.
Introduced at the halfway stage with India on 109 for two, Swann made an immediate impact when Virat Kohli played loosely outside off stump to his second delivery and was caught behind.
When Rahul Dravid provided the spinner with a low return catch three balls later, the momentum had shifted firmly towards the home side and both Tim Bresnan and Swann delivered maidens before India roared into life.
After 11 overs without a boundary, Dhoni collected his first four with an outside edge off Finn that narrowly evaded the diving Craig Kieswetter.
From then on, the run-rate gradually increased, and an increasingly assured Raina brought up his fifty in style with a dismissive swipe over the square-leg fence in a James Anderson over that yielded 18.
With Dhoni also finding top gear, 58 runs came from the batting powerplay, taken at the start of the 43rd over, and England had further reason for concern at the end of the innings.
Broad was forced off clutching his right arm after bowling two deliveries of the final over, although Finn, who took over, was at least able to claim overdue reward for his efforts as Ben Stokes took an impressive catch at deep cover to remove Raina.
When England began their reply, it was RP Singh who did the initial damage with wickets in successive deliveries.
Kieswetter provided Ravindra Jadeja with a simple catch at mid-off, having looked to advance down the track to a back-of-a-length delivery, and Cook drove tamely to cover at the start of the left-armer’s third over.
When Jonathan Trott pulled an innocuous Praveen Kumar delivery onto his own stumps, India appeared to be in the driving seat.
However, Bell and Bopara refused to panic and accumulated runs at a steady pace to keep their side in the hunt.
A single to long-on took Bell to 50 in the 30th over and Bopara reached the same landmark eight balls later with a sensational shot off Jadeja.
Having shaped to sweep, he changed his mind at the last minute and diverted the ball down to the third man boundary for his fifth four.
The momentum shifted again as Bell chipped Jadeja to long-off, ending a stand of 98, and Stokes mustered only seven before he was caught and bowled via a leading edge off Ravichandran Ashwin.
However, Bopara found another able ally in Bresnan, who dashed to 27 before losing his off stump to the returning Singh.
With a tight finish appearing inevitable, further drama came in the form of two rain interruptions, which saw the players leave the field at the end of the 44th and 45th overs.
England were two runs behind the Duckworth/Lewis par score at the time of the first brief stoppage, but two runs ahead when the rain forced a longer delay moments later.
There would be even greater excitement to follow as the match moved towards a remarkable conclusion.