England slide to 5-0 defeat
England’s hopes of avoiding a series whitewash at the hands of India disappeared in stunning fashion as they slipped to a 95-run defeat at Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens ground.
Chasing 272 for a morale-boosting victory, the tourists appeared firmly in control when openers Alastair Cook and Craig Kieswetter, who struck 60 and 63 respectively, shared a century stand for the first wicket at better than a run a ball.
However, the captain’s departure sparked the most alarming of collapses and, having been 129 without loss in the 21st over, England were dismissed for 176 with 13 overs unused.
Not for the first time in this series, spin proved to be the main factor in England’s demise. Left-armer Ravindra Jadeja finished as the pick of the attack with 4-33 from eight overs, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin returned 3-28 and part-timers Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwary also picked up a wicket apiece.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had earlier lifted India to 271 for eight with a perfectly paced 75 not out from 69 balls, yet his worthy efforts were overshadowed by the drama that followed during England’s run-chase.
Dhoni’s men had suffered a slide of their own, losing three wickets in 10 balls after an opening partnership of 80 between Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane, but, unlike their opponents, they were able to recover.
Having failed to record an international victory on their recent tour of England, India will now look to condemn Andy Flower’s side to the same fate when the two teams reconvene at this venue for Saturday’s solitary Twenty20 international.
There was no indication of what was to come as Cook and Kieswetter got England off to a positive start this afternoon.
Kieswetter, eager to use his feet to the spinners and timing the ball sweetly off front and back foot, was typically aggressive and moved past 50, from 49 deliveries, with a flashing square-cut for four off Varun Aaron.
England’s captain adopted a more measured approach, but reached his own half-century off just 51 balls and celebrated with a trademark cut off Aaron for his seventh four.
The seamer gained immediate revenge when he came around the wicket to bowl Cook, who was beaten for pace as he played back to a ball that appeared to keep a little low.
Remarkably, wickets were to fall in each of the next three overs. Kieswetter was lbw to Jadeja despite a good stride and, after Ian Bell - recalled in place of the injured Kevin Pietersen - had been caught behind playing back to Ashwin, Jonathan Trott became the left-arm spinner’s second victim when he drove with minimal foot movement and edged to slip.
Jadeja had a third wicket in as many overs when Jonny Bairstow, looking to counter-attack, advanced down the pitch and sliced tamely to backward point.
Ravi Bopara, attempting an ill-judged pre-meditated sweep, was bowled by Raina and Tim Bresnan fell in even softer fashion as he chipped an innocuous half-volley from the seemingly unthreatening Tiwary straight to extra-cover.
A rampant India wasted little time in running through the rest of the card, Jadeja having Samit Patel caught behind before Ashwin finished things off with the wickets of Stuart Meaker, leg before as he pushed forward, and Steven Finn, who top-edged a slog-sweep into the hands of Dhoni.
Finn made a notable impact earlier in the day, delivering a double wicket maiden after India’s openers had eased through the first 17 overs.
Having prospered through the off side once again in his innings of 38, Gambhir was the first man to fall when he played on to Finn in a repeat of his dismissal in Mumbai two days ago.
Five balls later, Virat Kohli shouldered arms to one that nipped back off the seam and was bowled for a duck.
Yet worse was to follow for India as Rahane, who had started his innings with a series of elegant pushes to the boundary that highlighted the pace of the outfield, was caught behind for 42, Kieswetter pulling off an excellent one-handed catch to his right after the batsman had chased a full delivery from Bresnan.
A second maiden from Finn completed the bowling powerplay, which saw India score just 10 runs, and another wicket should have followed when Raina edged the Middlesex seamer to second slip, only for Graeme Swann, recalled at Scott Borthwick’s expense, to put down a simple chance.
A promising innings from Tiwary, Parthiv Patel’s replacement, came to an end on 24 when he pushed forward at a length ball from Meaker and got a thin edge through to Kieswetter.
Raina, having survived a number of hairy moments, was then run out in the 37th over when he looked to steal a single to square-leg and was beaten by Bopara’s direct hit at the non-striker’s end. The left-hander looked to have made his ground, only for his bat to bounce up as he dived over the crease.
With Jadeja and Ashwin falling to Patel in successive overs, England looked to have kept India in check, but Dhoni, who had earlier thumped Swann down the ground for two sixes in three balls, had other ideas.
In a frantic finale, he struck further maximums off Meaker and Patel, who at least claimed his third wicket when Praveen Kumar, attempting to strike a second consecutive six, was superbly caught by Bairstow on the long-on boundary.