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Cricket: Big hit can't lift England; CRICKET: India square One Day series at the Brit Oval.

Byline: By Richard Gibson

ENGLAND lost a highly-charged thriller at The Brit Oval as India levelled the NatWest Series by completing a huge run chase in the final over.

Controversy reigned as England attempted to wrap up the seven-match campaign without the injured Andrew Flintoff but the teams will now face a showdown at Lord's on Saturday with the score 3-3.

Robin Uthappa, in his first appearance of the series, settled an incredible contest by a two-wicket margin when he scored the 10 required off Stuart Broad's final over in just four balls.

It was the final twist in a tense, error-strewn affair which included England captain Paul Collingwood being controversially run out, an angry spat at the head of India's pursuit of 317 and Sachin Tendulkar limping off after contributing a magnificent 94.

On a day of some excellent batting it laid the platform to settle the run-fest.

Centurion Owais Shah, debutant Luke Wright - Flintoff's replacement - and the big-hitting Dimitri Mascarenhas propelled England to an ominous 316 for six.

Their action-packed innings culminated with an extraordinary final over, which saw Dimitri Mascarenhas hit the last five deliveries - sent down by Yuvraj Singh - for six.

But it was Uthappa's 50th over antics which ultimately proved most significant as he failed to be distracted by losing partner Zaheer Khan to a run out off the second ball.

He calmly wedged a full toss over short fine-leg for four off the third and with only one more boundary required for victory found it at the first attempt with a splendid off-drive.

Moments later the 21-year-old was engulfed by his team-mates, who had run down the steps from the dressing room to share the moment.

The competitive nature of the campaign spilled over in the ninth over of India's chase when Broad and Sourav Ganguly were involved in an angry verbal exchange for which the former could yet be censured.

Ganguly appeared to take exception to something said by Broad and umpire Aleem Dar stepped in before fellow official Peter Hartley appeared to report the incident to third umpire Ian Gould via walkie-talkie.

Left-hander Ganguly responded by blasting the next delivery he faced from Broad for a straight six.

But it was Tendulkar who dominated an opening stand of 150, and may have registered a first hundred against England this summer but for his partner clattering into his leg while running between the wickets while he was in the mid-70s.

Handicapped by the injury Tendulkar, who had just called for a runner, mis-hit Monty Panesar's left-arm spin to short extra-cover after slamming 16 fours and a six.

At times he toyed with the England attack, galloping to 50 from only 41 balls with three successive fours off Collingwood's medium pace before lofting Mascarenhas for a straight six in the next over, the 13th of the innings.

Mascarenhas swung the advantage back England's way with a couple of wickets either side of India captain Rahul Dravid poking Shah's occasional off-spin to midwicket.

But Mahendra Dhoni and Uthappa shared 60 in just seven overs to keep the equation manageable and two edged fours by the latter off Anderson in the penultimate over suggested the gods were on India's side.

Earlier, England were in a pickle at 137 for five after Kevin Pietersen featured in two run outs.

Collingwood was fourth out for the hosts in bizarre fashion when Pietersen called for a single, after hitting a delivery from Ganguly to cover, and immediately swished his bat in frustration as substitute Dinesh Karthik's throw narrowly beat his partner's lunge for the line.

Collingwood ought to have survived because umpire Peter Hartley did not call for a television replay until after the Indian players and supporters celebrated after watching the incident on the big screen at the ground.

Third umpire Gould confirmed the fate of Collingwood, who voiced his displeasure to Hartley - standing in his first one-day international as an on-field umpire.

Under England and Wales Cricket Board directives, replays are shown as a matter of course by the scoreboard operator unless it is believed something contentious has taken place.

As Hartley had opted not to refer the decision to technology, there was no reason not to show it.

Yorkshireman Hartley was involved in another contentious moment at the start of a late assault by England which reaped 114 runs in the final 10 overs when he turned down a claim for a catch by wicket-keeper Dhoni against Shah off spinner Ramesh Powar.

Television showed the ball had clipped the toe end of Shah's bat and rolled up his body before being claimed by Dhoni.

Pietersen then sacrificed himself shortly after hitting his first half-century in one-day cricket this summer when he belatedly called for two after working Yuvraj Singh's spin to deep cover and ran past his partner, who remained rooted to the spot, as Ganguly's throw was gathered by Yuvraj at the bowler's end.

But Shah did not let the incident affect him as he crashed 10 fours and two sixes in getting to his maiden international hundred in 91 balls.

He shared a 108-run stand with Wright, whose innings exploded after a nervous start.

Wright's second scoring stroke was a slog-swept six and he showed the dynamic qualities which propelled him to the top of the Twenty20 run chart this summer.

Late on Mascarenhas became only the fourth man in ODI history to hit 30 runs off one over: Sri Lankan master blaster Sanath Jayasuriya has done it twice while only Herschelle Gibbs, who hit six sixes against World Cup minnows Holland, and Shahid Afridi have scored more.

His first of the quintet was fortuitous as Piyush Chawla clung on to a fine running catch only for his momentum to land him on the rope as he fell but the next four were all hit in an arc between deep midwicket and long-on.

After openers Alastair Cook and Matt Prior fell to the new ball, Ian Bell (49) and Pietersen (53) realigned the innings.

CAPTION(S):

RAPID FIRE.. Dimi Mascarenas hits five sixes off one over at the Oval yesterday. Pictures: Sky Sports
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 6, 2007
Words:1019
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