ENGLAND started life under Ashley Giles with a first one-day win in India since 2006, edging a thrilling series opener in Rajkot by nine runs
New limited-overs coach Giles saw his side end a run of 13 matches without a win in the country, posting 325 for four and then showing the nerve to withstand a bold chase that eventually subsided to 316 for nine. England’s batsmen set up victory, with Alastair Cook (75) and Ian Bell (85) putting on 158 but the bowlers showed plenty of heart to see off opponents who at times looked capable of reeling in the target.
James Tredwell was the pick of the attack with career-best figures of four for 44, while Jade Dernbach struck twice in the 45th over to stem a Mahendra Singh Dhoni-inspired fightback.
The positives for England extended to a solid 44 from Kevin Pietersen, making his first ODI appearance since returning to the format, and a crucial cameo from Samit Patel worth 44 not out in just 20 balls.
There was also a debut for Yorkshire’s Joe Root and although he did not bat, he bowled nine tidy overs.
Defending 325, Steven Finn and Dernbach knew keeping things tight would be no easy task and Gautam Gambhir was quick to locate the ropes off both bowlers and kickstarted the innings in earnest with three consecutive boundaries to begin Finn’s third over, which cost 17.
After ten overs he and partner Ajinkya Rahane had reached 66, 12 more than England’s mark.
But the off-spin of Tredwell and Root stifled the runs and the former made vital inroads too, removing Rahane (47) and Gambhir (52) in consecutive overs as 96 without loss became 102 for two. At the halfway mark the chase had slowed somewhat and Tim Bresnan further boosted England when he had the dangerous Virat Kohli caught behind for 15.
But Yuvraj Singh hit the first six of the innings two balls later to lift a packed crowd and then milked three boundaries off a loose Dernbach over. Successive swept fours off Root and a pull to mid-wicket saw Yuvraj to 50 in just 38 balls as the game tipped once more towards India.
The reliable Tredwell again delivered for his side when Yuvraj picked out Dernbach behind square for 61, leaving Suresh Raina and Dhoni at the crease. Dhoni offered a fierce chance to Eoin Morgan on nought, which the Irishman did well enough just to stop, and Raina had a life when replays showed Bresnan grounding the ball mid-catch.
He became Tredwell’s fourth victim for 50, but Dhoni was starting to impose himself. He clubbed four sixes in just eight balls, with Tredwell, Patel and Bresnan all on the receiving end. But he perished for 32, caught at long off to give Dernbach a crucial wicket, with Ravindra Jadeja playing on three balls later to make it 273 for seven. That effectively ended India’s chances and they lost Ravichandran Ashwin (13) and Ashok Dinda (three) before the end came.
England, having won the toss, began the day in positive fashion with Bell and Cook adding 54 in the first ten overs. India turned to spin from both ends but there was no lavish turn and Bell greeted Jadeja by drilling him over extra cover for six. Half-centuries for both openers followed, Bell’s coming first off 60 balls and the increasingly fluent Cook off 50.
Cook hit his solitary six down the ground off Ashwin helping England to a midway score of 145. Dhoni next turned to the occasional spin of Raina, who improbably played a part in denying Bell and Cook seemingly inevitable hundreds. He was the bowler when Rahane ran Bell out for 85 with a precise throw from short fine leg and then picked up the prize scalp of Cook, top-edging a poor delivery to the waiting Rahane.
That left England 172 for two, with Pietersen and Morgan in charge of building on the platform. The batting powerplay, enforced in the 36th over, helped them do so, with 44 runs in the five-over spell. Both men hit sixes, while a smattering of boundaries restored England’s momentum.
Pietersen fell for 44 and Morgan for 41, as Dinda picked up a pair of scalps he scarcely deserved. But England had late hitting power from Patel and Craig Kieswetter, who added 70 in 6.1 overs. Kieswetter struck two sixes on his way to 24no, but it was Patel who took charge, scoring 26 in the last two overs to finish 44no in 20 balls. It was, in all probability, a decisive cameo among several other strong contributions.