1st ODI: England v India, Match Report
Christopher Martin-Jenkins - 23-24 May 1996
Top-order return by Lewis
On a pitch very different in pace and bounce from the dead surfaces on which they failed in the World Cup, England were well placed to win the first one-day international at the Oval yesterday when bad light and rain stopped play for the second time.
Undermined by aggressive fast bowling from Chris Lewis, India were reduced from 54 for no wicket in the sixth over to 68 for five and although Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja held the fort after that, India need 196 to overhaul England's boldly acquired 291 for eight in the 32.1 overs which remain today.
His mercurial history suggests caution when appraising a performance by Lewis, but this was an aggressive and impressive spell of fast bowling in conditions which suited him well, both as a batsman and a bowler. Having been hooked for six and hit for 17 in his first two overs, he tempered passion with perception, dismissing three top-order batsmen and a promoted tail-ender in a 21-ball spell which earned him four wickets for six.
For a man who had already hit 29 not out from 21 balls this represented a dramatic return to the national team. It quite upstaged Matthew Maynard, for the simple reason that he was not picked in the final XI, and the three hitherto uncapped players, Alistair Brown, Ronnie Irani and Mark Ealham.
Each of these made a mark of some kind, notably Ealham, who asserted himself very effectively with the bat, but Lewis, for the moment, has the headlines to himself. He made the same sort of impact that he had in his first international appearance on this ground in 1990 after going to the West Indies as a replacement the previous winter. On a pitch with similar bone in it he hustled and hit more than one New Zealand batsman that day.
The starts to both innings were deceptive. India were out of the traps like greyhounds, England, in the face of some outstanding new-ball bowling, more like tortoises.
Lewis was by some distance the most experienced of the England attack yesterday in his 49th international. His first ball, after a woeful opening over from Dominic Cork in which legstump half-volleys were clipped away three times to the squareleg boundary, hit the splice of Rathore's bat off a good length. Tendulkar's resounding hook into the crowd was a timely reminder of what was needed and it was by bowling a good or full length that he claimed Rathore leg before, had Kumble caught at second slip and then bowled Sidhu and Manjrekar, the first through the gate, the second off an inside edge.
It would be unwise to read too much into one performance, even if it leads to a man-of-the-match award when the match resumes today. The forecast is uncertain, but there must be at least 25 overs of India's innings for the match to be deemed complete, so their best chance of winning may be to reach 146 (50 runs off eight overs) by that point, thus passing England's run-rate of 5.82 per over.
On the other hand their best chance might already have gone, for Sachin Tendulkar was in prime form when he hit across the line of a ball from Peter Martin which struck him in line with leg stump and which might just have missed it.
The starts to both innings were deceptive. India were out of the traps like greyhounds, England, in the face of some outstanding new-ball bowling, more like tortoises. While Mike Atherton played his own watertight game against Srinath and Prasad who, with their high actions, swung the ball and cut it both ways off the seam, Brown did his best to force the pace.
Playing and missing at his first ball from Srinath, Brown was dropped at second slip off his second (I wonder what Alan Wells thought when he saw that) and in between some hard hits through the offside and a couple of particularly meaty straight drives he spent much of the next 18 overs swishing unsuccessfully inside the line of the ball. Time and again balls passed between bat and body and over the stumps, yet both Atherton, caught behind off a late outswinger, and Neil Smith, were out before him.
Hick put on 66 in 10 overs but he needed to proceed with caution when Thorpe nibbled at Jadeja's medium pace and was adroitly caught behind,
Smith's 17 off 11 balls got the innings going. He struck four particularly handsome fours and it took a brilliant catch at slip by Tendulkar, low to his right, to nip him in the bud. This unselfish and effective little innings gave Hick, when he appeared at No 4, a little more breathing space, but he was soon into his stride and playing at his best, kick-started by successive fours off Paras Mhambrey.
With Graham Thorpe, constrained at first by Anil Kumble's typical accuracy, Hick put on 66 in 10 overs but he needed to proceed with a certain amount of caution when Thorpe nibbled at Jadeja's medium pace and was adroitly caught behind, whereupon Alec Stewart was out to a glorious moment of cricket. Stopping a drive off his own bowling, Jadeja made a left-handed pick-up, transferred the ball to his to his right, pivoted and hit the stumps with an instant throw.
This was no way to treat a Surrey captain, especially one who had obliged the new England coach by putting on the new uniform blue England helmet, and when Irani, meaning business, unluckily pulled a rare long-hop from Kumble high to deep backward squareleg, England had faltered at 176 for six in the 36th over. Ten overs later Ealham's compact strength and sure eye had brought him 40 from 34 balls, with suc- cessive sixes, over mid-wicket and long-on, from good length balls by Tendulkar.
Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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