India 257-8, England 260-2 – England win by eight wickets
England thrashed India by eight wickets with 33 balls to spare, a victory far more straightforward than anyone could have expected and one of the most rewarding since the last World Cup. This win secured the series 2-1 against the No 2 side in the world in the sort of conditions India would have welcomed: a dry surface offering some turn to their spin bowlers.
England restricted India to 256 for eight, a target which is deemed to be a doddle in this era. But this match had the feel of a final, which made it all the more intriguing, and at the start there was more tension around as a consequence. That all vanished as rapidly as some of the Indian supporters in the last hour as Joe Root and Eoin Morgan calmly cruised to their goal in an unbroken partnership of 186. Root hit his 13th ODI century from the last ball of the match to become England's most prolific ODI centurion, surpassing Marcus Trescothick.
Perhaps the tension was only really evident in the India side as, for the second match in succession, England's wrist-spinner Adil Rashid proved to be the most effective of the three on view – that must be some kind of record against India. England's white-ball specialist took three wickets, including the vital one of Virat Kohli with a delivery he will treasure for decades. More than anyone Rashid was responsible for the shackling of the India batsmen even though there were more economical bowlers on his side – both David Willey and Mark Wood were bang on target at the beginning and end of the innings.
Rashid was the man of the match and seems to be benefiting from concentrating solely on the white-ball game; he is so much more confident in this format than in Test cricket. The soundest strategy may be to let him be until the 2019 World Cup is over since he has become such a crucial weapon for Morgan. Thereafter it might be a good idea to invite Rashid to reconsider bowling with a red ball.
India's innings began with unaccustomed wariness mainly because Wood and Willey found not only a good length but also a hint of swing. After 18 balls Rohit Sharma holed out off Willey for two. The introduction of Liam Plunkett hastened the run rate with his first two overs yielding 21 runs, mostly to silky cover drives by Shikhar Dhawan, but a moment of brilliance from Ben Stokes ended a dangerous partnership alongside India's captain.
Kohli clipped the ball to square leg but was not keen on a single. However Dhawan was and he advanced down the pitch a fraction too far. Stokes hurled the ball at the stumps at the bowler’s end and he hit them. There was no great celebration from the England side as the speed of Stokes’ throw deceived everyone.
Kohli's departure was even more influential. A fizzing leg break from Rashid pitched on middle and leg and passed the outside edge of the bat to clip the off bail. An aghast Kohli, who looked almost as astonished as Mike Gatting all those years ago against Shane Warne at Old Trafford, hesitated before departing. There followed a few nervous moments for England as the third umpire confirmed that the ball had broken the stumps before the intervention of Jos Buttler's gloves, an outcome that would have relieved England's wicket keeper since he had earlier spilled a tough chance off Moeen Ali when Kohli was on 23.
In the same over Suresh Raina was satisfyingly pouched at leg slip by Root – the satisfaction coming from the fact that England had stationed a leg slip in the first place.
MS Dhoni tried to restore the innings but in the last two games he has looked like a man swimming against the tide. Shardul Thakur was the solitary batsman to cause any trouble when he hit the only two sixes of the innings in the penultimate over.
England's pursuit began rapidly. Jonny Bairstow had hit seven boundaries in nine deliveries before gently clipping the ball to mid-wicket. James Vince on his return to England colours settled easily, produced some graceful strokes and was then run out for an infuriating 27. He might have set off earlier for a sharp single; he was perhaps unlucky that Dhoni redirected the ball on to the stumps so deftly.
Then with barely a scare Root, the man of the series, and Morgan combined with purpose. On 69 Root was stumped off a no-ball from Yuzvendra Chahal; on 85 Morgan was dropped at mid-on. Otherwise they coped admirably against the Indian spinners, who had so tormented them earlier in this series and the T20s and who were getting the ball to turn on such an arid surface.
England had recognised a problem and resolved it, which is what good sides do. “Those spinners did for us again in the middle overs” said one of the captains after the game and remarkably that was Kohli. It was Morgan who simply observed that his spinners were “brilliant”.