India denied as rain ruins contest
Parthiv Patel's frustration at falling five runs short of his maiden international century was matched by that of his team as a whole, as India's hopes of their first victory of the summer against England were thwarted by a washout in the opening ODI at Chester-le-Street. Chasing a stiff target of 275, England had been struggling on 27 for 2 after 7.2 overs after a fine new-ball display from the swing bowler, Praveen Kumar, but despite two attempts at a restart, the umpires eventually abandoned the match at 5.30pm.
It was a cruel end to a contest in which India made all the running, yet still finished with a net loss going into the second match at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, after their hard-hitting middle-order batsman, Rohit Sharma, suffered a broken right index finger from the the one and only delivery he faced from Stuart Broad. With Sachin Tendulkar missing the match as well due to an inflamed right toe, India's casualty list for the tour is almost into double figures. Tendulkar, who remains stuck on 99 international hundreds, is due to see a specialist later this week.
Despite all that, India could and should have won this one. Alastair Cook's decision to insert his opponents on a seam-friendly wicket was influenced by the unusually early 10.15am start, but it was Parthiv and his ODI debutant sidekick Ajinkya Rahane who claimed the early initiative, as they reached 33 for 0 after a cautious first nine overs, before accelerating through the bowling Powerplay to post a first-wicket stand of 82 - India's highest in ten innings against England this summer, and their first in excess of 50 since the Lord's Test in July.
Parthiv, whose appearance in Wednesday's Twenty20 at Old Trafford had been his first against England since India's Test tour in 2002, showcased a range of eyecatching strokes including a confident pull to repel England's short-pitched approach, and a cunning ramp over the slips to dent James Anderson's figures after a typically tidy start to this day's work.
Parthiv had one key let-off, on 7, when the local debutant, Ben Stokes, spilled a low edge in the gully off Tim Bresnan, but beyond that he was virtually chanceless until, with a hundred in his sights, he was lured into a wild drive to a wide ball from Anderson, and snicked a simple chance to the keeper, Craig Kieswetter.
Virat Kohli, who was unused in the Tests, backed up Parthiv's efforts with a battling 55 from 73 balls in a third-wicket stand of 103, while Suresh Raina again proved he's a transformed character in coloured clothing, as he racked up 38 from 29, including a brace of sixes off Broad and Jade Dernbach.
It was Dernbach who eventually extracted Raina in the penultimate over of the innings, courtesy of another brilliantly disguised slower ball - this time a bouncer - that took an eternity to reach the batsman and was eventually flapped to short backward square. MS Dhoni, whose form has been unconvincing so far on this tour, never quite got going to the same degree. He had managed 33 from 36 balls before feathering a loose carve off Bresnan, who then yorked R Ashwin first ball to keep India's total below 280 in a superb final over.
India's imposing total was achieved despite yet another controversial dismissal for Rahul Dravid, following on from the shoe-lace incident at Edgbaston and the disputed bat-pad catch at The Oval. He made 2 from six balls before umpire Billy Doctrove initially turned down an appeal for caught-behind off Broad, only for the decision to be reversed on review, despite no clear evidence from Hot Spot.
Broad, who had earlier removed Rahane for 40 from 44 balls via a top-edged pull to fine leg, was also responsible for Sharma's tour-threatening injury. He had come to the crease after Parthiv's departure, but lasted one delivery before being forced to retire hurt after an excellent lifter from Broad rapped Sharma on the gloves. He was in clear pain as the physio attempted to pull the damaged joint back into position, and the suspected break was confirmed by the BCCI soon afterwards.
With six wins out of six so far on India's tour, England came into the contest brimful of confidence, but without their star spinner, Graeme Swann, who failed to recover from a virus and was replaced by Patel. But after a chastising time in the field, England's day got even worse when their own turn came to bat.
In the 40 minutes that were possible before England's chase was interrupted, Praveen's performance opened up a gulf between the two teams that would have been hard to surmount had the match resumed either with 224 required from 32 overs, or with required 164 from 20 - the two proposed scenarios when the rain did threaten to abate. Though Jonathan Trott had been nailing his cover-drives nicely in a run-a-ball 14 not out, the going had been tough at the top of the innings.
First to fall was the captain Cook, who had been in ruthless form against Sri Lanka in the last ODI series of the summer in June, but whose only scoring shot in ten attempts on this occasion was a first-ball edge past second slip for four. Kumar refused to allow him even to escape the strike, and midway through his second over, he cramped Cook on the cut, and bent an inswinger into his stumps, via a bottom edge.
At the other end, Craig Kieswetter had an even less productive stay. He too got off the mark first-ball, with a clip for two through midwicket, but was then pinned down for 13 consecutive deliveries before a rare bad ball from Praveen was turned off the hip for four. He hadn't added to his score when Praveen bent a delivery into his front pad, and he was sent on his way lbw for 6 from 19 balls. In the end, England dodged a bullet, but after two months of one-way traffic on this tour, India served a timely reminder of their formidable reputation over 50 overs.