India send England packing
England failed in their mission to end the tour of India on a high as they went down by seven wickets in the final one-day international.
Despite posting their highest total of the series - they were bowled out for 288 - England could not prevent India strolling to the win that gave them a 5-1 series triumph.
That victory - the hosts’ 16th in succession batting second - was achieved with only five balls to spare should not mask the ease with which they chased their target and, indeed, the gulf between these sides over the last three weeks.
Robin Uthappa and Rahul Dravid’s 166-run opening partnership not only snuffed out any hopes England had of a winning finale, but overshadowed the tourists’ best batting display of the series.
Kevin Pietersen lit up the innings with a scintillating exhibition of strokeplay, peppering the boundary boards with startling frequency en route to 64 off 56 balls.
Paul Collingwood made a typically composed 64 to extend his fine run of form, and Geraint Jones supplied impetus towards the end of the innings with a half-century at better than a run a ball.
Sri Sreesanth bowled with commendale perserverance and no little guile to claim 6-55 and the man-of-the-match award, and his sterling efforts were underlined by England’s travails with the ball.
They struggled to extract any life from a pitch unquestionably favouring the batsmen, Uthappa profiting to such an extent that he fell just 14 runs of a century on his one-day international debut.
If the 20-year-old was disappointed at missing out on three figures, he will be less enamoured by the manner of his dismissal.
Waltzing towards his crease for what was a comfortable second run, he failed to ground his bat as England wicketkeeper Jones collected James Anderson’s throw from long-off and removed the bails.
The youngster, however, could be excused his abberation given the calibre of his innings, which spanned 96 balls and contained 12 fours and a six over long leg that required a member of the groundstaff to scale the stand and retrieve the ball from the roof using a net more commonly seen by a swimming pool.
Dravid, composure personified as he progressed serenely to 69, was trapped leg before by Sajid Mahmood to check India’s progress.
But Yuvraj Singh, who made an unbeaten 63 off 57 balls, and Suresh Raini, despite his departure in the penultimate over for 53, ensured there was to be no happy ending for England.
One could not help but feel for Pietersen, in particular. Cricket watchers are accustomed to his aggressive batting, but the manner in which he laid into Vikram Singh and Rudra Pratap Singh bordered on the criminal.
The 18th and 19th overs of the innings yielded 39 runs, with Pietersen unfurling his trademark flicks over and through midwicket as well as some imperious off-side shots.
Collingwood, who himself dispatched RP Singh for a majestic straight six, will testify to Pietersen’s power - he was almost decapitated by one ferocious drive on the up.
Ian Bell shared an opening partnership of 43 with stand-in captain Andrew Strauss, who struck five boundaries before a lack of foot movement saw him edge Sreesanth behind.
Matt Prior fell two overs later, top-edging a hook off the same bowler to Irfan Pathan at fine-leg.
Bell’s promising innings was cut short when Pietersen called him for quick single to short
fine leg; Bell’s hesitation and Vuvraj's throw left him yards short of his ground.
Pietersen added 55 with Collingwood for the fourth wicket but, with his movement increasingly restricted, he succeeded only in sweeping Yuvraj to Uthappa at deep square-leg.
Jones demonstrated clever improvisation and placement in making a valuable 53 off 50 balls, but his departure - superbly taken one-handed by wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik off Sreesanth - was followed by that of Collingwood, who hoisted Pathan to long-on.
Ian Blackwell perished in similar fashion to give Sreesanth a fourth wicket, while Pathan’s slower ball accounted for Kabir Ali.
The last two balls of the innings saw Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood both swat Sreesanth to Vikram Singh at deep mid-off.