~~Rahul~~s generosity made it easy for England~~

Published: Thursday, March 23, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Former England captain Geoffrey Boycott believes that Andrew Flintoff's men were rank outsiders after losing half their side to injuries and had one in a million chance of winning the Mumbai Test but Rahul Dravid gave it to them when he won the toss and asked them to bat.

''No-one in India could believe that he (Dravid) had put a side in at the Wankhede Stadium where the pitch usually helps the bowlers, and particularly the spinners, later in the game,'' Boycott wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

''India probably thought England were lacking confidence having lost a Test four days earlier and their batting was prone to collapse,'' he added.

Surprised at the ''over-confidence'' shown by Team India in the match, the former captain said the hosts were probably too sure of their ability to handle the inexperienced English spin attack, which ultimately humbled them.

''The Indians reckoned the England spinners were so ordinary that a grandmother could play them. Well, bring on your grandmothers because Shaun Udal will never have a bigger day in his life,'' he joked.

''When he had Sachin Tendulkar taken at short leg it must have felt like scoring the winning goal in the Cup final at Wembley,'' he said comparing Udal's feat with that of the 1966 soccer World Cup winning team.

However, Boycott said the Indian follies were not entirely responsible for the English win. The leadership of Flintoff coupled with the spirited performance given by the squad, which -- before this series -- had never played Tests against India, scripted the first Test victory for the tourists in 21 years.

''Winning Test matches in India is a difficult business at the best of times. For England to share the series with only half a full strength side was a terrific performance,'' said Boycott.

''India probably got over-confident but credit has to be given to England for taking the lifeline that Dravid gave them.'' Boycott, like others, was amazed at Flintoff's leadership qualities and his ability to handle pressure. Boycott said Flintoff was the perfect replacement for Michael Vaughan should the regular captain choose to retire due to injuries.

''I can't speak highly enough of the way Andrew Flintoff batted, not just in this match, but throughout the series.'' ''I rate Michael as the best captain in the world at the moment and, if he recovers from his knee injury, he will take over. If he doesn't then Flintoff will do a fantastic job,'' he said.

Boycott said Flintoff has benefited tremendously from the opportunity to lead the side and it was his positive attitude in the face of adversity, which made all the difference to the depleted English team.

''Flintoff seems to have an intuitive feel for the job and the added responsibility seems to have benefited his batting. With the power at his disposal, it would have been easy to be macho. Instead he got his head down and batted responsibly,'' he pointed out.

He also praised the seamers for covering up the inexperience of the spin department.

''England's three senior seamers, Flintoff, Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, were exceptional throughout the series and made up for the lack of experienced spinners. Three spinners took 10 wickets between them, the seamers 36,'' he said.

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