Same team, same result for England. Not to mention the same foe inflicting the familiar pain. MS Dhoni, for it was he naturally, led his side to their third consecutive victory and secured the one-day series last night with only two matches to play.
If that were not enough, India's ubiquitous captain also cast aspersions on the tourists' unity and team spirit. It was a serious charge, not least because England have frequently invoked the all-for-one-and-one-for-all ethos as their chief asset. But after leading his side to a five-wicket win with a crucial unbeaten 35 from 31 balls, once more without seeming to break sweat, Dhoni said: "It's very important to be nice to your fellow team-mates. There were lots of gestures flowing around in the field when it comes to the England side.
"When you are under pressure, most of the individuals will definitely commit mistakes. These are the things that really shape the character of the side. As far as talent is concerned, they are very good. But they need to stick together — because that's one thing that's very important, especially when the team doesn't get the desired result."
This was a damning indictment of England's discordant behaviour and there were plenty of fielding lapses last night to provoke snarling reactions. Dhoni is something of an authority because he manages to keep cool in the direst circumstances.
Yet again, he did what he does best, what he does regularly but with uncommon lack of fuss, by assessing what was required and supplying it. England, digging as deep as an Indian mystic after deciding to keep faith with the XI that had been drubbed in the first two matches, had given themselves a wonderful chance of keeping the series alive when they took four wickets in reasonably short order.
With a target of 299, India still needed 82 from 11.2 overs when Dhoni sauntered out with his usual casual gait. He gathered his runs by stealth and, although another wicket soon fell to leave the side at 235 for 5, he was quite unperturbed, as if he knew he could turn on the gas if and when he wanted.
It is some gift and it probably helps if you have already won a World Cup on behalf of a grateful nation. Dhoni's phlegmatic attitude is infectious and he found an equally dependable ally in Ravi Jadeja to share a stand of 65 from 47 balls, while England's mood darkened.
India sealed victory with four balls left when Dhoni imperiously smote the first and second balls of the final over for four. He has now scored 250 runs in his last four innings against England without being dismissed – 78no, 50no, 87no and last night 35no. The world supply of asterisks may be under threat.
England will lament another missed opportunity and will rue losing so early a series in which it was genuinely felt they could and would contend. It was finally creditable that they ultimately pushed the World Cup winners so far because for two-thirds of their innings India were taking a stroll in the park.
The bowling was largely adequate, the fielding, which has been responsible for so much of England's success in the past 18 months, was again disappointing. The wicketkeeper, Craig Kieswetter, who missed two catches, had an eminently forgettable day.
That the tourists reached the heights of 298 for 4 was because of Samit Patel's most accomplished international innings. Patel, promoted in the order above Jonny Bairstow, made a jaunty 70 from 43 balls, which included six fours and two sixes, and was man of the match.
This was timely for it demonstrated that the chunky Patel is a fighting cricketer who does not shirk the contest. There were runs too for Jonathan Trott, grinding out 98 from 116 balls, his 18th score above 50 in 37 innings, and a well-ordered 64 from 61 from Kevin Pietersen.
But the innings stagnated for key periods as well , especially at the start. Although their eventual total is the sort that wins many more games than it loses, the lack of early wickets hampered England. The writing was on the wall and their fractious nature ensured that it stayed there.
Asif: Being butt of joke made me bowl no-ball
Mohammad Asif claimed in court yesterday that he bowled an allegedly pre-agreed no-ball at Lord's last year because of "unfriendly comments" from his Pakistan captain, Salman Butt. It was bowler Asif's first appearance in the witness box at the players' trial in London for alleged spot-fixing during a Test match against England. Both deny the charges. Asked if Butt had said anything to him in the over leading up to the disputed ball, Asif said: "He said 'run faster fucker', and went on to say something like 'haven't you slept?' It made me lose concentration." When asked if Butt's comment was made in a "humorous" way, Asif replied: "No, it wasn't. It was unfriendly for a captain to speak like that to me." The case continues.
India v England: Third one-day international, Punjab Cricket Association Stadium:
England won toss; India win by 5 wickets
*A N Cook lbw b R Vinay Kumar 3, 10 balls
†C Kieswetter b Kohli 36, 38 balls 2 sixes 3 fours
I J L Trott not out 98, 116 balls 8 fours
K P Pietersen lbw b Jadeja 64, 61 balls 9 fours
R S Bopara b P S Kumar 24, 32 balls 3 fours
S R Patel not out 70, 43 balls 2 sixes 7 fours
Extras (lb1 w2) 3
Total (for 4, 50 overs) 298
Fall 1-8, 2-53, 3-154, 4-195.
Did not bat J M Bairstow, T T Bresnan, G P Swann, S T Finn, J W Dernbach.
Bowling P S Kumar 10-0-56-1, R Vinay Kumar 9-1-64-1, V Kohli 3-0-20-1, U Yadav 10-0-71-0, R Ashwin 10-0-45-0, R A Jadeja 8-0-41-1.
P A Patel lbw b Bresnan 38, 46 balls 3 fours
A M Rahane c Cook b Finn 91, 104 balls 7 fours
G Gambhir c Pietersen b Finn 58, 60 balls 1 six 3 fours
V Kohli lbw b Swann 35, 30 balls 5 fours
S K Raina c Pietersen b Bresnan 0, 3 balls
*†M S Dhoni not out 35, 31 balls 3 fours
R A Jadeja not out 26, 24 balls 2 fours
Extras (lb8 w7 nb2) 17
Total (for 5, 49.2 overs) 300
Fall 1-79, 2-190, 3-212, 4-217, 5-235.
Did not bat R Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, U Yadav, P S Kumar.
Bowling S T Finn 10-0-44-2, T T Bresnan 7.2-0-62-2, J W Dernbach 10-0-69-0, S R Patel 10-0-50-0, G P Swann 10-0-59-1, R S Bopara 2-0-8-0.
Umpires S Asnani and B F Bowden (NZ).
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