Rajkot: It started with a record opening partnership for England, continued as a batting fest with late fireworks, then a spirited chase by India, and finally ended with a packed crowd at the 28,000-strong Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium in Khanderi, Rajkot going home disappointed as England beat India by nine runs in the first One-Day International on Friday (January 11).
India could make only 316 for nine in reply to England's 325 for four, and that brought England's first win against India in India since they won by five wickets in April 2006 in Jamshedpur, ending a winless sequence of 13 matches.
On a pitch that offered nothing to the bowlers, and with a quick outfield to boot, the match was expected to be dominated by batsmen, and that's exactly what happened. The man who stood out though was James Tredwell, the offspinner, who returned fantastic figures of 4 for 44 off ten overs. Each of his four wickets – Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina – came at key moments, and the wickets were those of India's four highest scorers.
India might reflect on the final two overs they bowled that went for 38 runs, or the fact that several batsmen got starts but didn't capitalise, but eventually, it came down to England winning more of the key moments than India did in a tight contest.
India had gotten off to a good start in their reply with Rahane (47 off 57) and Gambhir (52 off 52) handling England's new ball bowlers comfortably and keeping pace with the scoring rate. But the introduction of spin into the attack in the form of Tredwell and Joe Root, the debutant, stopped the run-flow and led to both batsmen playing bad shots to get out one after the other.
A subdued Virat Kohli then fell cheaply to Tim Bresnan, handing England control of the match.
However, Yuvraj brought it back in the balance with an attacking half-century, playing the lead role in a 60-run stand in 54 balls with Raina. Yuvraj was particularly harsh on Bresnan and Jade Dernbach, who only got a few of their intended short deliveries on target.
Tredwell, used judiciously by Alastair Cook, who wasn't tempted into bowling him for long spells, did the trick for England again, getting Yuvraj out, caught at short fine leg for 61 (54 balls). At 198 for four in 34.4 overs, India were still in the match with Raina and MS Dhoni at the crease, but Tredwell broke another key stand, fooling Raina (50 off 49) into popping a catch back in his final over.
Dhoni raised visions of a win snatched from the jaws of defeat, unleashing four monstrous sixes, but the mounting asking rate did him in, and he lost his stumps to Dernbach. Dhoni's 25-ball cameo had brought him 32 runs, but for once, he couldn't finish off a chase for India.
England's bowling, Tredwell apart, didn't inspire much, and they had much to thank their batting for in putting up a total that proved enough.
England's total was built on an opening stand of 158 in just 27.4 overs between Cook, the captain, and Ian Bell. The previous best opening stand by an England pair against India was 133 by Barry Wood and Chris Tavare in Headingley in 1982.
Cook had won a good toss and expectedly chose to bat.
Bell edged a good delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar between Dhoni and R Ashwin at first slip, with neither going for it, and survived a confident leg before shout later on, but that apart, both were untroubled in their long partnership.
With more than 150 on the board, England lost a wicket in the only way they could have, a run out. Cook played the ball to Rahane at short fine-leg and Bell called him through for a single. However, Bell hadn't reckoned with Rahane's speed and found himself a few inches short as Rahane broke the stumps with a direct hit. Bell finished with 85 off 96 deliveries.
Cook (75 off 83) fell soon after to Raina's offspin, Rahane coming into play once again and safely pouching the top-edged sweep to leave England 172 for two in 31.1 overs.
Kevin Pietersen, playing his first ODI since February 2012, and Eoin Morgan took a while to settle in, but soon started middling the ball nicely. Just when they were finding their range, both fell to Ashok Dinda, who tumbled forward to take a good return catch off Morgan (41 off 38), while Pietersen (44 off 45) attempted to hit Dinda into the stands but only found a diving Kohli at long-off.
However, Samit Patel connected well to smash 44 not out off just 20 balls, accounting for 26 of the 38 runs in the final two overs, including a six and four boundaries.
Dhoni nearly returned the favour with two sixes off Patel in India's 43rd over, but eventually, England proved the better of the two sides on the day.