हिन्दीಕನ್ನಡമലയാളംதமிழ்తెలుగు

Raina comes of age, powers India to victory

Published: Friday, March 31, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Faridabad:After yet another top order fiasco, a pugnacious Suresh Raina (81 not out) and a never-say-die Mahendra Singh Dhoni came up with a stupendous display to mar Andrew Flintoff's 100th ODI party and power India to a four-wicket win Against the visitors at the Nahar Singh Stadium here today.

With their second successive win against England, India is now 2-0 up in the seven-match series even though woes continue with their top order.

Chasing a victory target of 227, Team India was in morass at 92 for five but Raina, adjudged Man of the Match later, and Dhoni stitched together a 118-run sixth wicket partnership to script another so-near-yet-so-far story for Flintoff and his men.

Raina, however, was lucky to get a life after an airborne James Anderson caught him off his own bowling but the ball popped out of his hands when he landed with a jerk.

The Uttar Pradesh southpaw came off age today and showed immense maturity. His career best knock of unbeaten 81 came off 88 balls and was peppered with eight fours and a six besides a lot of improvisation and pragmatic batting.

Earlier it was an abject show by the Indian top order. As they began the chase today, Gautam Gambhir (29 off 45 balls, 4x4) started with a flourish and two exquisite drives. The first one off James Anderson through the covers and the ball traversed the same region in the next over from Kabir Ali.

Virender Sehwag (26) was battling a back spasm and a woeful form and seemed wriggling out of it as he drove Anderson for two trademark boundaries through covers and then his attempted pull off Kabir Ali cleared fine leg boundary. But the best of the lot was the backfoot cover drive of Andrew Flintoff that pierced point and gully.

Just when he looked to get in the groove, he tried a sweep shot and the Ian Blackell delivery knocked off his bails. Sehwag's 45-ball 26 included four hits to the fence and India lost first wicket at 61.

What followed was a mad rush and even an otherwise cool Rahul Dravid was no exception. Gambhir, better of the two openers, drove with lan and was strong off his pads as well. His full swing of the blade was contrast to Sehwag's cagey approach with the willow.

But the southpaw looked bereaved by the exit of his Delhi team mate and crammed for room, he played a shot cross between flick and pull and the top-edge landed in Anderson's palm as the southpaw joined Sehwag in the pavilion with the score reading 70.

Dravid (5) looked a desperate soul, stepping out for no particular reason and he returned following a horrible mix-up with Yuvraj Singh for a run that was never there.

Mohammad Kaif (0) began his eight-ball stay with a Chinese cut, almost drawing it into his stumps, and ended it with an attempted pull to miss the line as the Plunkett delivery rapped his pad and trapped him plumb.

Yuvraj (18) looked in good nick with two pulls off Anderson racing to boundary in the same over and then successive boundaries off Kabir Ali. But it was too good to last and Yuvraj went for a cut and missed a Blackwell delivery to see his bails kock off. India suddenly found themselves in a rut at 92 for five.

From there onwards, it was Raina and Dhoni all the way. Dhoni today showed the other facet of his batting and played second fiddle to Raina when he was required to do so. The stumper's 55-ball knock of 38 came to an end when he was played on while going for a wild drive off Flintoff.

Irfan Pathan (12 not out) then joined Raina to complete formality in 49 overs as India reached 230.

Earlier, riding on half centuries by Andrew Strauss (61) and Kevin Pietersen (71), England reached 174 for five but soon lost the plot and were bundled out for 226 in 49.5 overs.

Opting to bat first, England got off to a sedate start with openers Andrew Strauss (61) and Matt Prior (33) adopting a cautious approach and shunning extravaganza. On a slow turner, Dravid employed as many as seven bowlers, including Gambhir who made his ODI debut as bowler. Harbhajan drew first blood in the 16th over when Prior misread a delivery that caught him plumb in front and England were 66 for one.

Owais Shah (0) returned soon to a dubious decision for it seemed to only kiss his pad before nestling into Dhonis gloves but umpire A V Jayaprakash decided the batsman had to go.

Ramesh Powar, who had earlier grassed an opportunity, atoned when he bowled an advancing Strauss through his gates after a 72-ball knock of 61 that included six hits to the fence.

At the other end, Pietersen continued to live dangerously.

Despite coach Duncan Fletchers repeated warnings, he started off with a sweep off Harbhajan, then uppishly drove Powar that almost carried to Raina and Kaif almost took a blinder on another occasion.

Much was expected from Flintoff (5) on his 100th ODI but he stepped out to hit Powar and Dhoni stumped him with a world of time in his disposal. Paul Collingwood (5) too proved a poor judge and quest for a non-existent run brought his doom as Dhoni was bang on with his throw. England lost top half of their batting order at 174.

Just when Pietersen seemed all set cut loose, the South African-born batsman chipped one from Yuvraj to Dravid to perish after a 87-ball 71, which was studded with four boundaries and two sixes.

Pietersen's perish always invites a landslide and today was no different a story. Blackwell (9) was castled by an S Sreesanth slower while Liam Plunkett (4) was bowled out by Irfan Pathan. Geraint Jones (22), on the other hand, perished in the deep trying to accelerate and Gambhir took a smart catch off Sreesanth and the pacer bowled James Anderson (2) to drop curtain on the visitors innings.

Powar returned a career-best figure of 10-3-31-3, while Sreesanth also scalped three for 40 in 6.5 overs.

Scorecard of Match 2

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