Flintoff~~s fifty saves England from danger

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:England captain Andrew Flintoff rode on the generosity of the Indian fielders playing a captain's knock to help his side set a challenging target of 313 for the hosts to win the match, on the fourth day of the third and final Test at the Wankhede stadium here today.

England, who had gained a 121-run first innings lead, were finally bowled out for 191 to thus set India a victory target of 313. If India can achieve this victory target, it would be the highest score ever chased at the Wankhede stadium.

In reply, India experimented Irfan Pathan in the openers place with Jaffer and gifted the wicket of Pathan to Andersen. At close India were 18 for losing of one wicket. Opener Wasim Jaffer (4) and nightwatchman Kumble (8) were the men at the crease.

England, who need to win this Test to be able to square the series, were let off the hook by the Indian fielders with Andrew Flintoff being the major beneficiary with three chances going begging of him.

Flintoff came in with England in a spot of trouble at 85 for five.

However, along with Collingwood with whom he added 66 runs, he took England out of a hole and took them towards a score, which they could defend on a last day wicket.

However, the England captain should be grateful to the largesse of the Indian fielders as Yuvraj Singh dropped a sitter off Anil Kumble when the allrounder had not even opened his account.

As if it was not enough to drop Flintoff once, wicket keeper Mahendra Dhoni muffed up one of the easiest stumpings with the England captain way down the wicket after being beaten in flight by Harbhajan Singh. Flintoff was then on 14 and the team score 119 for five.

In the next over, Dhoni once again missed an easy catch as he tried to pull Kumble but managed an edge onto his thigh pad which went straight to Dhoni who spilled it. Flintoff was on 18 in the team total of 124 for five.

The very next ball, Flintoff tried to flick Kumble but closed the face of his bat a bit early and the resultant outside edge flew back to the bowler. Kumble tried to dive forward and take the chance, but the ball fell just in front of him.

At the other end, the situation was tailor made for Collingwood who once again put a premium on his wicket and frustrated the Indian spinners who were getting abit of turn and bounce.

Collingwood finally perished being caught and bowled by Harbhajan for a well made 33 and England on 151.

After the fall of Collingwood, Flintoff opened his shoulders and played some superb shots, but with Harbhajan finally getting the ball to turn and jump and Kumble being as accurate as ever, he could not press on the accelerator as he would have liked. After the dismissal of Collingwood, Geraint Jones also did not last long, making just three before skying a pull for Pathan to catch him at square leg off Harbhajan.

Hoggard also perished being caught in front by Kumble trying a sweep shot and then Flintoff himself, after reaching another half century, was finally stumped by Dhoni of Kumble for exactly 50 which had six boundaries and a six in it.

Earlier in the morning, after resuming at their score of 31 for 2, debutant Owais Shah held the innings together with a responsible 38 and alongwith nightwatchman Shaun Udal frustrated the Indian bowlers' attempts at getting an early breakthrough.

Udal played grittily in giving Shah support as the two batsmen went about setting up a good foundation for England to be able to set India a challenging target for victory.

Both the batsmen played cautiously as they survived the first hour with any undue trouble taking their singles and twos to swell the England total.

Udal, also gained in confidence as he hit Sreesanth and Munaf Patel for a couple of crisp boundaries as England posted their 50 on the board.

However, Dravid who had began with Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth made a bowling change at the pavilion end after 11 overs and that seemed to click, as Pathan, who was brought on struck in his second over, itself got Udal to go for a drive to a ball outside the off stump and the edge was taken low down at second slip by Wasim Jaffer.

Pietersen, the next man in, looked uncomfortable against Kumble who was brought on from the Tata end and after an uneasy stay of 29 minutes tried to turn the leg spinner onto the on side but a leading edge saw the ball fly to the bowler who dived across the stumps to bring up a great catch. Pietersen made seven runs.

Kumble finsihed with four wickets, while Harbhajan got two.

India have to get these 313 runs in 100 overs, and they will, however, miss the services of V Sehwag who did not take the field the whole day today due to a back injury and if needed could bat only after five wickets have fallen.


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