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Uthappa sees India through

S. Dinakar

Shah hits maiden century; Tendulkar, Ganguly lay the platform for the chase

— PHOTO: AFP

RISING TO THE OCCASION: Robin Uthappa held his nerve to help India pull off a thrilling win.

London: Guts and glory go together. Robin Uthappa stepped down the track to Stuart Broad and crashed the paceman through long-off for a boundary. He then clenched his fists even as his jubilant teammates ran in and a feeling of dejection swept through the English ranks. India, requiring 10 runs off the last over, clinched a humdinger by two wickets with two deliveries remaining at The Oval on Wednesday.

The seven-match NatWest ODI series is now level 3-3, with the decider to be played at Lord’s on Saturday. The exceptional opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly set up a stirring 317-run pursuit, putting on 150 in 22.2 overs. The left-handed Gautam Gambhir who came in at No. 3, chipped in with 47.

Stumble

India suffered a stumble in the middle but Mahendra Singh Dhoni (35 off 37 balls) and Uthappa (47 not out, 33b, 8x4) kept India in the hunt, before the latter sealed the issue in a nerve-jangling last over. India had roared back from the brink.

The Indians began the last 10 overs needing 83 with six wickets in hand and the contest entered a phase when edges went hand in hand with brave strokeplay, brilliance on the field combined with elemental errors, when silly dismissals alternated with booming blows. Revealing admirable temperament, Uthappa innovated and created. On the bench for most part and then thrust into a pressure situation, he deserved the slices of luck he enjoyed.

Earlier, Tendulkar delighted in the sunshine. The maestro was all balance and timing, whether launching into expansive drives, or using his wrists to glide or flick the ball. His straight-driving was glorious, so were his inside-out strokes; the manner in which he made room and crashed the pacemen — James Anderson suffered the most — through covers was superb.

Ganguly played second fiddle to Tendulkar, but played some soothing off-drives. Once again, the left-hander looked set for a bigger contribution when he mistimed Broad to Kevin Pietersen at short-cover.

Tendulkar falls short

Tendulkar, whose tryst with the 90s on this tour continued, suffered cramps and then was picked up at short-cover off left-arm spinner Monty Panesar. England gained the upper hand with Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid perishing to soft dismissals, but Uthappa had the final say.

Earlier, India lost the plot in the end overs in the host’s innings. England recovered and then stepped on the accelerator. With Owais Shah remaining unbeaten with a 95-ball 107 — the batsman’s first international hundred — England reached 316 for six after being 137 for five.

The depth in the host batting line-up ensured that India would be set a challenging target on a good wicket and a fast outfield. India’s decision to go in with four specialist bowlers meant that it had a Plan ‘A’ — two pacemen, two spinners and the part-time spinners in the event of India batting first.

Missing another seamer

However, with England opting to take first strike under a cloud-cover, India sorely missed a third medium-pacer after Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar had struck early to reduce England to 20 for two. Eventually, as the events played out, the extra batsman made all the difference.

England was without the injured Andrew Flintoff, but the young debutant Luke Wright at least performed one-half of the star all-rounder’s role with a blistering 50 off just 39 balls (7x4, 1x6).

Earlier, the in-form Ian Bell battled with typical flair and footwork to notch up a 59-ball 49 with 10 scintillating boundaries and Pietersen batted with greater responsibility for his 53. Coming back to Shah, the right-hander was to be blamed when he failed to respond to Pietersen’s call for a second run after the ball had travelled to Ganguly at cover.

Making amends

Shah, however, made amends. He might have been extremely fortunate not to have been adjudged caught behind off Ramesh Powar when on 40 — replays showed it was yet another umpiring error in the series — but built on the luck. The right-hander was involved in two critical partnerships — 106 with Wright for the sixth and an undefeated 73 with Dimitri Mascarenhas for the seventh.

Dravid erred in tossing the ball to Yuvraj for the last over.

Mascarenhas’s charge

Mascarenhas smote Yuvraj with contempt between mid-wicket and long-on, even if his first hit was nearly held by a sprawling Chawla near the ropes.

Mascarenhas’s unbeaten 36 consumed just 15 balls, including five successive sixes off the last five balls.

SCOREBOARD

England: A. Cook c Dhoni b Zaheer 0, M. Prior lbw b Agarkar 6, I. Bell b Chawla 49, K. Pietersen (run out) 53, P. Collingwood (run out) 1, O. Shah (not out) 107, L. Wright (run out) 50, D. Mascarenhas (not out) 36; Extras (b-1, lb-7, w -6) 14; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 316.

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Cook), 2-20 (Prior), 3-79 (Bell), 4-83 (Collingwood), 5-137 (Pietersen), 6-243 (Wright).

India bowling: Zaheer 10-0-43-1, Agarkar 8-0-63-1, Ganguly 7-0-43-0, Chawla 10-1-44-1, Powar 9-0-44-0, Yuvraj 5-0-59-0, Tendulkar 1-0-12-0.

India: S. Tendulkar c Collingwood b Panesar 94, S. Ganguly c Pietersen b Broad 53, G. Gambhir c Panesar b Mascarenhas 47, Yuvraj c & b Mascarenhas 18, R. Dravid c Collingwood b Shah 4, M.S. Dhoni b Broad 35, R. Uthappa (not out) 47 , A. Agarkar (run out) 1, Zaheer (run out) 0, R. Powar (not out) 0; Extras (lb-9, w-9) 18; Total (for eight wkts. in 49.4 overs) 317.

Fall of wickets: 1-150 (Ganguly), 2-156 (Tendulkar), 3-209 (Yuvraj), 4-216 (Dravid), 5-234 (Gambhir), 6-294 (Dhoni), 7-307 (Agarkar), 8-309 (Zaheer).

England bowling: Broad 9.4-1-46-2, Anderson 8-0-79-0, Mascarenhas 10-0-55-2, Collingwood 8-0-54-0, Panesar 10-0-55-1, Shah 4-0-19-1.

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