After thumping England in the second ODI in Cardiff, you would have thought India would have wanted to follow the same formula again – bat first, put a big score on the board, put pressure on the England batsmen, who just don't know how to chase down a big score, and complete an emphatic victory.
However, after winning the toss, MS Dhoni decided to go back to his old comfort zone of chasing, and the way India play ODI cricket at the moment, it did not make even the remotest of difference, as the bowlers, yet again looking sharper and more lethal than a cheetah, rather than the toothless insipid gang of white with the red cherry in their hand, struck gold again, scything through England's batting lineup with consummate ease.
England cannot play spin they say, and while that was not so evident in the Test matches, the slow bowlers came back to haunt them for the second straight ODI -- be that the premier spinners, or the part-time ones, to knock the batting order over, before some decent repair work from Jos Buttler and James Tredwell saw the home side finish on a could-have been-a-lot-worse 227 all out.
R Ashwin (10-0-39-3) was the man to do most of the damage, making the most of a spinning Trent Bridge pitch, to lead India's charge – roared on by a majority, fanatic, partisan Indian crowd -- in some style.
India were never going to be troubled in the chase of 228, were they? The batsmen made the target look exactly what it was – easy as an apple pie -- with Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli (yes, he finally tasted the feeling of scoring runs in England), Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina ensuring India would have the most serene of victories, getting to that 228 in just 43 overs with six wickets to spare.
The chase began with Shikhar Dhawan expectedly struggling and eventually falling for just 16 (23b, 1x4) in the eighth over, before Rahane, opening the innings in the absence of Rohit Sharma, and Kohli went about setting that platform for the rest of the batsmen to sleep through the remaining runs.
Kohli (40, 50b, 2x4, 1x6) and Rahane (45, 56b, 6x4, 1x6) 50 runs together in just a little over 10 overs to set the tone for the rest of the chase. There were a couple of "man now that's what I'm talking about" shots in that partnership – both of them straight down the ground – and one each from Rahane and Kohli.
Rahane, like he did in the second ODI in Cardiff, fell just when he looked settled for a big half-century or even a century, edging one off the returning Steven Finn, before Kohli, looking composed, cool and in control, threw his wicket away by flicking a slow ball off Ben Stokes straight to James Tredwell at mid-on.
India were on 120 for three in the 26th over at that point, but with the asking rate well below five, there was never really any pressure, and Rayudu, making the most of the opportunity, and Raina (42, 42b, 5x4), picking up from where he left off with his brilliant hundred in the previous one-dayer, picked the bowlers off with ridiculous ease on their way to a 87-run partnership to ease their side to the brink of victory, with the latter's victory only a minor aberration, as Rayudu (64 n.o., 78b, 6x4) and Ravindra Jadeja, coming in ahead of skipper Dhoni, saw India home.
Like the second ODI on Wednesday, it all began rather well for England, with Alastair Cook and Alex Hales putting on a solid partnership for the opening wicket worth 82 runs from 18 overs. Cook was far from his best, it must be said, looking pretty tentative, and edging quite a few deliveries, but to the captain's credit, he hung in there as Hales looked to cut loose at the other end.
The India pace bowlers, despite bowling some decent stuff, just could not make any headway, and so, MS Dhoni brought in the spinners, and it was the part-timers – Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu, in for the injured Rohit Sharma – who struck.
Raina, first, crucially, picked up the wicket of Hales, who yet again fell off a sweep shot, this time the ball taking a top edge, going off his shoulder and popping up kindly to Dhoni behind the wicket. Hales (42, 55b, 5x4) looked good in the middle again, but one more time, failed to drive forward his solid start with the opener falling for a second straight score in the 40s.
Cook (44, 65b, 4x4) followed suit soon after, jumping down the track to Rayudu, with the ball going down the leg side and Dhoni doing the rest.
At 93 for two, England were still in a solid position, but once the spinners took control, with the pitch just doing enough, the batsmen were all at sea. Joe Root was the next to show his fallibility against the turning ball, getting beaten by a nice off-spinner from Jadeja, with Dhoni, quick as a cat, taking the bails off with the right-hander's foot right on the line.
Eoin Morgan, England's best one-day batsman, and Ian Bell, looking to cement his place as the No.3, tried to settle things down and recover from the triple blow, taking England from 97 for three to 120, before Ashwin's ripper of an off-spinner put paid to those hopes as Morgan (10, 18b) walked back to the pavilion after getting an edge through to Dhoni.
The one thing you don't want to happen when you are struggling in the middle is to get run out, and the one batsman who looked fairly comfortable – Ian Bell (28, 38b) -- did just that with Mohit Sharma, who was not too impressive with the ball at the top, with an injury also hampering him, throwing down the stumps in brilliant fashion from the deep.
Ben Stokes' horror recent run continued as Ashwin turned one again with the edge taken stunningly by Raina in the slips one-handed – it was the kind of catch the India were crying out for to be taken in the Test... well better late than never.
Buttler (42, 58b, 3x4), so lethal in this format, and Chris Woakes put on 33 runs in 9.2 overs to at least ensure the innings would go right until the end, with Tredwell (30, 18b, 4x4, 1x6) smashing a few boundaries right at the end to give England just that wee bit of momentum.