India to the fore as England toil
England’s search for a first international win of their India tour goes on after they slipped to a fourth straight defeat in Mumbai.
Beaten in Mohali on Thursday to end the series as a contest, England’s ambitions for the remaining two games centred around “maximising our learning and development”, according to team director Andy Flower.
Instead, he saw them soundly beaten by six wickets by an India side who have now won 10 of the last 11 matches in which they have batted second.
England’s total of 220 proved wholly inadequate, overhauled with 9.5 overs to spare as Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina did what none of England’s top or middle order managed by making decisive contributions.
Kohli finished unbeaten on 86, taking his tally for the series to 270 runs at an average of 135, while Raina struck an increasingly violent 80 off 62 balls that reached a crescendo during one of many heated exchanges with the England fielders. The series has been played in a spirit unbecoming of both sides.
That this encounter took place on the ground where India won the World Cup in April served as a reminder of their dominance in their own conditions, and England face an unenviable task to salvage some pride in the final ODI in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Their failure here stemmed from another unfulfilled performance with the bat, on a surface offering appreciable turn and occasional variable bounce.
England’s early response with the ball was admirable, but there remained the suspicion even as Steven Finn, who finished with 3-45, and debutant Stuart Meaker reduced India to 46 for three that more early incursions were needed.
Earlier, Craig Kieswetter, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen perished after making promising starts as England, for whom Tim Bresnan top-scored with 45, were bowled out without using up their allocation of overs for the third time in four games.
Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s off-spinner, claimed 3-38 and slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja 2-41, while debutant Varun Aaron went some way to justifying his tag as his country’s fastest bowler by collecting the last three wickets in as many overs.
England’s innings, which spanned 46.1 overs, was fatally undermined by a middle-order collapse that saw four wickets fall for the addition of 33 runs - after Trott and Pietersen had seemingly repaired the damaged caused by the loss of both openers in successive deliveries.
Alastair Cook, despite a decent stride, was lbw to the last ball of Ashwin’s first over, and Kieswetter, who hit two towering sixes in his blistering 29, was trapped in front by a Praveen Kumar leg-cutter that kept a touch low.
Trott, who pushed his first ball sweetly through extra-cover for four, accumulated steadily while Pietersen showed only glimpses of his attacking best, most notably in lifting Praveen over long-off for six.
Their third-wicket alliance was worth 73 when Vinay Kumar nipped one back to uproot Trott’s off stump, and a splendid catch by substitute fielder Manoj Tiwary, leaping to his right at deep square-leg, to hold a powerful sweep from Pietersen gave a far from sell-out crowd further reason to cheer.
Ravi Bopara laboured 19 balls over his eight, an innings that ended when he was lbw sweeping at Jadeja, who topped that by seeing off a disbelieving Jonny Bairstow with a beauty that pitched on middle and hit the top of off.
From 145 for six, England were grateful for a seventh-wicket stand of 47 between Samit Patel and Bresnan, although the former never looked like reprising his 43-ball unbeaten 70 in Mohali before he swept the impressive Ashwin to Kohli on the deep square-leg rope.
Aaron, a 21-year-old of whom India expect much, mopped up the tail with haste. A leaden-footed Scott Borthwick - playing at the expense of the rested Graeme Swann - and Meaker were both beaten for pace, while Bresnan, having batted with good sense and no little gumption, had his off stump tickled by one that held its line.
India's response began in inauspicious fashion. Parthiv Patel, aiming across the line, and Gautam Gambhir, via inside edge as he attempted to force on the up, were bowled by Finn, before Meaker’s extra bounce, allied to an open face and Kieswetter’s wonderful one-handed catch to his right, accounted for Ajinkya Rahane.
In hindsight, Samit Patel’s failure to run out Kohli, on 26, with just one stump to aim at from point cost England dear.
Kohli and Raina, manipulating the ball superbly and running with an aggression that matched the feistiness of the game, added 131 for the fourth wicket in fewer than 19 overs.
There was little to chose between the two before a visibly riled Raina launched a ferocious assault against Bopara and Finn, who exacted a measure of revenge by beating the left-hander’s wild swing in his first over back, which nonetheless cost 15. Finn’s foul-mouthed send-off was unnecessary.
Kohli, who has hardly been shy of offering his opinion in this series, kept his head, though, and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrived to accompany him to the finishing line with considerable ease.