Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
If ever there was a crucial match this was it, more so since the match was carried over to the next day. The other match at Chelmsford saw Zimbabwe pull off the upset of the tournament to date by beating SA, which meant the side that lost at Edgbaston said goodbye to the World Cup.
India fancied their chances of beating England having won two consecutive games in Sharjah a month ago, and I think Alec Stewart made a big mistake by putting India in for three reasons:
1. India had won both games in Sharjah batting first.
2. India are known to be poor chasers, the recent game against Zimbabwe being a good example.
3. In their previous two games batting first (after being inserted) they had scored 329 and 373 against Kenya and Sri Lanka respectively.
Stewart probably wanted his new ball bowlers to make best use of the early morning conditions as they had done in previous games. But this time the sun was out and the bowling didn't worry the Indians too much. Ganguly and Dravid seem to be batting in another world. No bowler troubled them and only the unfortunate run out of Ganguly saw their partnership broken. At the time the score was 93 in the 22nd over, a perfect time for Sachin to walk in.
But England seemed to have planned a way of frustrating... Sachin by not allowing him singles. Soon he tried to break the shackles and ended up hitting the ball down Hick's throat at deep mid-wicket. Three down for 139 in the 34th over.
Rahul meanwhile carried on his brilliant form and reached his 4th fifty in 5 innings. His handling of Mullally was fantastic, precise footwork negating the danger of any movement and then strong wrist work sending the ball into the gaps for boundaries. The usually miserly Mullally gave away 54 runs in his 10 overs, expensive by his wonderful standards.
At the end of the innings, Jadeja played another invaluable hand reaching 39 in 30 balls and with Azhar also scoring a brisk 26, India reached the fighting score of 232 for 8.
Azhar made a brave move asking Mohanty to open the bowling along with Srinath and it paid off handsomely. All credit to Azhar for foxing the English batsmen who must have been pumped up to play Venkatesh Prasad. Mohanty had a woefully out of form Stewart caught in the slips by Azhar and two balls later he forced an indecisive shot from Hick for him to chop the ball back onto his leg stump. A big, big wicket as Hick was in great form.
Hussain struggled at the other end, beaten for pace on a few occasions and unable to fathom which way Srinath was moving the ball. Mohanty should have had him leg-before when he didn't offer a shot to a ball which would have hit the middle stump half way up, but umpire Hair said not out. A shocker of a decision.
As the clouds loomed above, Saurav produced another breakthrough bowling Hussain, who had scored only 33 off 63 balls - a strike rate only good enough if you are chasing 150-175 to win. Immediately after this wicket the rains came and the match had to be postponed to the next day, with England needing a further 160 runs in 29 overs at 5.20 runs per over.
The next day saw cloud cover and a very cold wind blowing across the ground. The Indian team was pumped up and encouraging each other all the time. Both teams were aware that a loss meant an exit from the tournament but England, who frankly just didn't have the talent to meet the challenge, faded away to lose by 63 runs. India were helped by one poor decision by umpire Javed Akhtar who adjudged dangerman Thorpe leg before off Srinath, but you could say justice was done. At least the mistake was not as blatant as the one Hair made in favour of Hussain.
The Indians had at last bowled and fielded like a team that was hungry to win, and Azhar led the side brilliantly. He held two good catches at second slip - no catch is easy in such cold weather and this lifted the side as well.
The field placing was well planned. Fielders were placed at single saving positions to frustrate Fairbrother who looks for singles in the beginning of his innings rather than play the big shots, which increased the asking rate. Also Anil Kumble bowled to a test match field with a slip and short-leg and this put added pressure on the batsman.
Azhar is the only member of the team who played in the Semi-final of the 1987 World Cup at Bombay when India lost to England so for him it was pay back time. Just like the Sri Lanka match previously, life has gone through a full circle. He must have certainly enjoyed this win, sweet revenge to put England out of the World Cup on their own turf, only the second time in World Cup history that the hosts will not be contesting the semi-finals.
All in all it was a very good win but it must be said that this English side is a very mediocre one which depended more on weather and pitch conditions suiting them rather than sheer talent.
The Indian batting line up looks great at the moment and with Sachin definitely due for a big one after a couple of failures, if our bowlers bowl as well as they did in this match, India could prove a handful.
India's second match against Pakistan will be the match of the tournament especially because interest in the World Cup among Indians and Pakistanis in England far outstrips that of the local English population. The locals sadly seem to be more interested in football since it is a game in which England does relatively well! Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online. For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.