India on whitewash course

India on whitewash course

Hosts surge to 4-0 lead with commanding six-wicket triumph

India on whitewash course

India's debutant bowler Varun Aaron reacts to celebrate the dismissal of England's batsman Tim Bresnan during their fourth one-day international cricket match in Mumbai. AP

England made a typical slow start to their innings and pressed on the pedal to give the impression of a bigger total than their eventual 220. Then came their familiar bumble against spin, and India completed a routine evening by orchestrating a professional chase to emerge six-wicket winners to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.

It wasn’t a rosy chase all the way for the Indians. Englishmen came hard at them from ball one, showing a lot of aggression and intent. Steven Finn led the visitors’ attack with a great heart as he has often done in this series.

The strapping quick jettisoned Parthiv Patel and Gautam Gambhir to reduce India to 21 for two, and Craig Kieswetter held onto a rare catch to dismiss local boy Ajinkya Rahane as India slumped further to 46 for three.

The sparse crowd fell into silent mode as the home side looked vulnerable for the first time in this series, and England finally seemed to have unearthed a formula to tame the Indians. But it was all a mere ruse as Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli joined forces for the fourth wicket to resume normal service.

Understandably, both the batsmen made a watchful beginning, but their knocks assumed true colours as the innings progressed. Kohli, who made an unbeaten fifty, was the first one to shed peaceful ways, unfurling a flurry of drives through his favoured off-side.

England employed four fielders inside the circle on the off-side to prevent Kohli from unleashing those booming carpet drives, but still he managed to send the ball to the ropes with ease and elan.

Raina has had a quite series so far, and he selected a perfect occasion to join the run fest, stroking his way to a blinding 80 off just 62 balls and added 131 runs with Kohli in just 18.5 overs.

Once he assessed the conditions and the bowlers, there was no stopping the Uttar Pradesh man as he displayed his big-hitting prowess, especially through the on-side. A sluggish pitch didn’t matter one bit with Raina in that mood as India reached home comfortably.

Earlier, the first two overs of England innings were indicative of things to come when openers Kieswetter and Alastair Cook played out two maidens against Praveen Kumar and R Vinay Kumar respectively. Kieswetter struggled to put the ball beyond the circle, and Cook was extra cautious against the Indian new ball bowlers.

The arrival of R Ashwin only compounded Cook’s woes. The left-hander played the offie planting his front-foot far down the pitch and tried to work him through the gaps, but his venture brought only disaster as Ashwin trapped him leg before with a ball that didn’t turn as expected.

Kieswetter too followed his skipper immediately, but the back-to-back dismissals exactly didn’t set off panic in the England camp. Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen put together a 73-run alliance for the third wicket to take England to a robust position.

Trott and Pietersen have been England’s best batsmen during this wretched tour for them, and the right-handed duo confidently tackled the Indian spinners on a rather slow pitch.

But a moment of brilliance from Vinay snapped the blossoming partnership. The Karnataka medium pacer sneaked the ball through the narrow gap between Trott’s pad and the bat to rattle the timber. Indian fielding has been a revelation during this series, and substitute Manoj Tiwary offered a shining crumb of evidence, taking breathtaking diving catch at the deep to dismiss Pietersen off Ashwin.

Once the Surrey man departed, debutant Varun Aaron combined with his colleagues to blast away the middle and lower-order as England settled for a total that was vastly insufficient to challenge India, whose batting has been formidable, meaningfully.

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