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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Simon Mann's column
BBC cricket reporter Simon Mann
By Simon Mann
BBC cricket reporter in India

There can be no higher praise for Suresh Raina's innings against England in Faridabad than to say Sachin Tendulkar was not missed.

Suresh Rainia
Raina was the only batsman to free himself from the shackles of a slow pitch

On this evidence, India have produced another high-class batsman with a big future.

Raina arrived at 80-4 with his side threatening to squander a promising position, much as England had done in the first match.

He upstaged crowd favourite Mahendra Dhoni in their match-winning century partnership and displayed remarkable composure to guide India to a more comfortable victory than seemed likely with 15 overs of the match left.

His strength is his timing through the off-side, but when required he was able to biff the ball over the top on the leg-side.

It was like watching that old pro Neil Fairbrother win a match for Lancashire. The difference is that Raina is only 19.

He was the only batsman to free himself from the shackles of a slow, big-turning, low-bouncing pitch.

Somewhere in this series the batsmen will be let off the leash, but once again the bowlers were on top.

The dry, cracked surface gave considerable help to the spinners and India employed five, a combination of specialists and part-timers.

The mystery was why England went into the game with only one as there must have been a case for including Gareth Batty.

Perversely, if Batty had played, Liam Plunkett might have missed out and along with Andrew Flintoff, he was England's most impressive bowler.

Kabir Ali followed his best one-day return in Delhi with one of his poorest. He often mixes wicket-taking deliveries with 'four' balls. Here, it was only the latter.

England's total was defendable, but some wayward bowling at the start of India's innings and an unfortunate drop by James Anderson in his follow through when Raina was on 18 were the defining moments.

Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen's dismissal came at the wrong time for England

They had batted with considerably more application than in the first game, making an early assessment of what constituted a competitive total and then sticking to their plan.

What prevented them producing a more testing score was the loss of their two main run-makers at crucial times.

Andrew Strauss played a cute innings - until his final ball. His method was to wait on the back foot against the spinners, giving him maximum time to play the turning ball.

It was a surprise when he changed his method of attack against Ramesh Powar and came down the pitch before playing across the line at a straight delivery.

Kevin Pietersen's innings was so restrained he did not hit a single boundary between the 18th and 36th overs; he had concluded the risk of playing big shots against the spinners was too great.

Pietersen eventually chipped tamely to Dravid at mid-wicket. His dismissal cost England the chance of scoring above 240, which might have been enough.




SEE ALSO
India grounds profiled
13 Feb 06 |  Cricket
England in India 2006
08 Dec 05 |  Future tour dates


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