England hold their nerve
England carried their dominance over India into the limited-overs arena as they survived a late bout of nerves to secure a six-wicket win in the NatWest International T20 at Old Trafford.
This victory, completed with just three balls to spare, may not have been as overwhelming as those which carried England to a 4-0 npower Test series whitewash, but a tense finish should not mask what was a largely controlled chase under the floodlights.
Man-of-the-match Jade Dernbach once again demonstrated his expertise at the death, equalling the best figures by an England bowler in T20 cricket by claiming 4-22.
He played a crucial role in the second of two precipitous collapses that saw India bowled out for 165 after they chose to bat on a surface offering more pace than many people predicted.
Eoin Morgan’s rapid 49 added to the early momentum provided by Kevin Pietersen, but it took three successive Samit Patel fours in the last over to seal victory after a seemingly comfortable chase had been transformed into a needlessly tense finish, with 10 needed off the final over.
For all their struggles, Patel and Ravi Bopara can be satisfied with the part they played in overhauling the highest T20 international total made on this ground. They finished unbeaten on 25 and 31 respectively.
Ajinkya Rahane’s sparkling 61 off 39 balls on debut therefore went to waste for India, who must now hope the five-match NatWest Series beginning on Saturday brings a change in fortunes during what has been a miserable tour.
The 23-year-old opener demonstrated the sort of strokeplay that has earned him a first-class average of 67, scoring freely off the back foot and particularly impressively in the arc between point and mid-off.
Rahane was supported by Rahul Dravid, who marked his T20 debut for India – at the age of 38 – with a curious 31 containing three successive leg-side sixes off Patel, but India fell away alarmingly after racing to 104 for one.
Having seen Parthiv Patel drive Dernbach high to mid-on to break an opening stand of 39, Rahane advanced to punch Stuart Broad over extra-cover en route to a 29-ball fifty that was rapturously received by the sizeable Indian contingent in a sell-out crowd of 19,500.
Dravid’s was the first of four wickets to fall for 13 runs in the space of 15 deliveries as England mounted a spirited fightback.
Dravid drove Bopara to short extra-cover; Rahane top-edged a cut off Dernbach to third man; Broad had Virat Kohli caught behind pulling; and Rohit Sharma’s lack of urgency allowed a clumsy Kieswetter to complete a stumping off Graeme Swann at the second attempt.
Suresh Raina swung lustily, in partnership with the less effective Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but the impact of their sixth-wicket alliance of 41 was negated by an even more abrupt collapse that saw the last five wickets tumble for seven runs in 13 balls.
Dernbach, employing his much-vaunted slower balls to great effect, was the chief beneficiary as he collected three victims, allied to a smart run-out of Ravichandran Ashwin in his follow-through.
His figures equalled those of Paul Collingwood against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl in 2006.
If Rahane enjoyed a debut to remember – the result aside – England newcomer Alex Hales will want to forget the manner in which he was trapped lbw second ball by Praveen Kumar.
Kieswetter managed one inadvertent six over third man before he drove Munaf Patel to short extra-cover, and Pietersen’s dismissal for 33 – superbly stumped down the leg side by Dhoni off Kohli – left England precariously placed on 61 for three.
Morgan assumed responsibility for repairing the damage, dominating a stand of 73 with Bopara that featured strokes all around the wicket – and the odd slice of fortune.
It took a disputed catch from Rohit, diving forward at backward point, to end an innings spanning just 27 balls, and India applied sufficient pressure on Bopara and Patel, most noticeably courtesy of an excellent penultimate over from Munaf that cost just three runs, to raise fears of an unlikely victory.
A wide off the first ball of the last over from Praveen was followed by two far from convincing fours to third man, but Patel’s driven four over mid-off to seal victory was altogether more emphatic.