Hyderabad: MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina picked up where they had left off in India's one-day series in England last month, producing a pair of hard-hitting half-centuries to lift their team out of a dicey position in the opening ODI at Hyderabad. After winning his first toss in six attempts against England, Dhoni chose to bat first on a slow surface, but India were struggling on 139 for 4 after 34 overs before he and Raina turned on the after-burners as a further 161 were added in the final third of the innings.
Dhoni, whose last international innings on home soil had been his 91 not out in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka in April, was the unequivocal star of the show with a thrilling 87 not out from 70 balls. As had regularly been the case in England, he started cautiously against a disciplined attack, and had reached 5 from 18 balls before belting his first boundary, from Ravi Bopara, to signal India's late charge.
By the end of the 50 overs, Dhoni had posted his fourth half-century in consecutive ODIs, to give India a real chance of earning their first victory over England in any international since the Chennai Test of December 2008. England's seamers bore the brunt of his assault, with Graeme Swann emerging as the star of the attack with 1 for 35 in ten overs. India's total of 300 for 7 fell just short of the 304 for 6 they managed in Cardiff in their last encounter with England, their highest score in any match on their recently completed tour.
In total, Dhoni belted 10 fours and one six in his innings, the latter coming from a trademark helicopter flick off Steven Finn in the penultimate over of the innings. Finn had started his day's work with impressive pace and accuracy, and should have had a first-over wicket when Jonathan Trott dropped a sitter off Ajinkya Rahane at second slip. But he finished with the bruised figures of 1 for 67 in nine overs, with his solitary wicket that of Raina in his seventh over, moments after he had been battered for another six over long-on.
Raina, whose brutality against the full length ball was a sight to behold, crunched 61 from 55 balls, with both of his sixes coming from the final four balls of his innings. Like Dhoni, he had opted for circumspection in the early part of his stay, but the longer his 62-run stand for the fifth wicket continued, the more boisterous the Hyderabad crowd became.
In between some chastising blows, Finn had a hand in two timely run-outs, most particularly the first, in his second over. Rahane drove him hard back down the track, and Finn's fingertips did just enough to run out Parthiv Patel at the non-striker's end. Rahane himself was unable to make amends for his partner, however. He had reached 15 from 41 balls when Graeme Swann dragged him out of his crease with his third delivery of the match to give Craig Kieswetter an easy stumping.
In his first match since recovering from concussion, Gautam Gambhir confirmed his fitness with a fluent 32 from 33 balls. However, Jade Dernbach's liquorice allsorts proved hard to pick and tough to get away on the surface, and the slower ball that did for Gambhir was a beauty. It looped up above the batsman's eyeline and dropped sharply to rap his shin in front of leg stump. At 79 for 3 after 18 overs, the game was very much in the balance.
England's position could, and probably should, have been even better after 25 overs, when Samit Patel repeated Finn's trick of dropping his fingertips on a straight drive. It was Raina this time who was in peril as the bails were dislodged, but after a lengthy delay for the TV adjudication, he was given the benefit of the doubt by the third umpire, Sudhir Ashani.
India's bowling attack will include include two spinners, with Jadeja included as an all-round option. Umesh Yadav will join Praveen Kumar and R Vinay Kumar in the seam attack. For England, Ian Bell made way for the inclusion of their rising star Jonny Bairstow, whose 41 not out from 21 balls in the last match between these teams was the decisive performance.
India: 1 Parthiv Patel, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Umesh Yadav.
England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach.