Bangalore, Feb 27: Centuries, collapses, a five-wicket haul, a controversial decision, missed chances, run outs, sixes and a tied result: so much drama erupting in one match as favoured hosts India took on a resurgent England in their World Cup tie in Bangalore. After India's mammoth 338-run innings, who would have given the English a hope in hell of stretching the home team, let alone holding it to a tie?
After all, England came into this match having lost 12 of their last 13 encounters in India; they were up against a huge total; facing the World Cup favourites; and that too on a ground where just a week-and-a-half earlier Indian spinners had shot out Australia for 176. Indeed, England valiantly struck down a stock-pile of odds to rampage to the threshold of victory. But the rare result was brought on by several key moments and crucial junctures. These were...
1) India's latter order collapse - India lost 7 wickets for 33 runs in the space of 4.1 overs at the end of their innings, with a tight paceman in Tim Bresnan wreaking most of the havoc. He took 4 wickets in the death, truncating India's surging run-flow and keeping the side down to 338. After Michael Yardy got rid of Yuvraj Singh for 58, Bresnan struck once in the 47th over and thrice in the 49th, to remove Indian captain M S Dhoni for 31, Yusuf Pathan for 14, Virat Kohli for 8 and Harbhajan Singh for 0.
2) India's final run out - In the context of the game, Zaheer Khan's run-out in the last over could have proved crucial. After all, with Munaf and him running one short and then Zaheer being found short of his crease while doubling back for the second, India missed out on scoring the one run that might have helped it convert the eventual tie to victory!
3) Strauss' caught-behind reprieve - In just the third over of England's innings, TV replays detected that English captain Andrew Straass had in fact, snicked a ball from Zaheer Khan to M S Dhoni behind the stumps. But there was so much of noise around the ground that it muffled the snick and hence, Dhoni stifled his appeal. Strauss, of course went on to score a historic century. One has to naturally wonder what might have been had he been rightly given out?
4) Bell's UDRS let-off - In the 25th over of England's innings, off-spinner Yuvraj Singh apparently trapped English batsman Ian Bell in front. When the unmpire turned down the appeal, the Indian captain asked for Umpire Decision Review. Replays and simulation came into play, clearly showing that Yuvie's offie had hit Bell plumb, but because Bell was forward of the wicket by 2.5 meters, the decision went against India and Bell gleefully survived to go on and make a crucial 69 off 71 balls for his side.
5) Zaheer's burst - With England at 280/2 and requiring just 59 runs from 48 balls to win, India were down in the dumps. The shoulders had slouched, the heads had dropped and a discouraged aura took over the lads in blue. But then Zaheer Khan pulled a rabbit out of a hat when in the 43rd over, he struck to first have Ian Bell caught at mid-off and then got Strauss out, courtesy a superb lbw. Zaheer returned in his next over to clean up a twitchy Paul Collingwood for 1, as England had slipped to 285/5 in 44.2 overs.
6) England's late surge - England's chances of pulling off a backdoor victory were looking progressively bleak by the time they had entered the penultimate over when they still required 29 runs off 12 deliveries. Then out of nowhere came the aces up their sleeves - Graeme Swann carted leg-spinner Piyush Chawla for a six over midwicket in the second ball, before three balls later, Bresnan subjected Chawla to the same treatment. Then with 14 required of the last over, Bresnan out and Swann taking a two and a single, Ajmal Shahzad biffed a big straight blow for six as well. Those three shots brought England within sight of victory.
These were the moments that decided which way the match would sway in a right game of cat and mouse and in a veritable see-saw battle. India and England had at different times surged ahead only to be seriously pegged back and wound up in the stalemate of a tie. The World Cup has truly come alive with this scintillating encounter. What a match!