Well, they saved the worst until last. On the Feast of St Crispin, of all days, the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, when gentlemen of England now abed should have thought themselves accursed they were not here, the England led by Alastair Cook were simply wretched.
Any gentlemen of England not abed and seeing this lot would have dived under the blankets but not before having a stiff tincture first. In being defeated by 95 runs in the fifth one-day international to lose the series 5-0, England suffered their most disastrous batting collapse in limited-overs matches, losing all 10 wickets for 47 runs, falling from 129 for 0 to 176 all out in 17 overs.
It seems ridiculous to reflect that until the point where it all began, India were not playing with any conviction and the tourists had set a firm course for their first victory of the series. Chasing more than they ought to have been, following another crushing innings, of 75 not out in 69 balls, by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, England were going at an irresistible lick.
Between them, the first-wicket pair of Cook, the captain, and Craig Kieswetter, put behind them the miseries of the past fortnight. With nary a false shot, they punished some ineffective bowling with real purpose so that by the end of the 20th over England were 129 without loss.
The match was theirs to lose and, boy did they lose it, more the Charge of the Light Brigade, which also took place on 25 October, than Agincourt. Cook, stuck on the crease, was bowled by a quick ball from the new kid on India's block, Varun Aaron, and in the next over Kieswetter propped forward to a straight one from the left-arm spinner Ravi Jadeja. It never stopped.
Ian Bell, brought back to the side only because Kevin Pietersen has a fractured thumb, played an abject six-ball innings. Perhaps he lacked cricket, he certainly lacked a plan and was caught behind, having already tried that method of dismissal once.
The two Jonathans, Trott and Bairstow, came and went. Bairstow, who started his international career in a blaze of glory this tour in the warm-up matches, has had a pitiful time of it. Being a red head, he is called Blue and how apposite that has seemed for the poor chap.
England were hopeless against spin yet again and it seemed to go like a top when a couple of wickets fell. The hesitancy of footwork, choice of shot, too often against the turn, was primitive. Ravichandran Ashwin took three wickets with his off spin and Jadeja four.
Whatever Cook said to his men in between innings it cannot have been anything resembling Shakespeare's words for Henry V before Agincourt and certainly not "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers". As for going once more unto the breach as Hal suggested earlier in the piece, forget it.
Afterwards Cook said: "It was a bit of a shock that. We haven't batted well enough on this tour and that really just capped things off. We bowled really well and Steve Finn was outstanding as he has been all trip. We know how hard MS Dhoni is to bowl to and credit to him again. It was probably a slightly above-par score but at 129 for 0 it looked a long way short. We know you can lose wickets in clusters here but I didn't think you could lose 10. We have lost a lot of these matches because our batting hasn't been good enough."
England's previous worst collapse was against Australia in 2001 when they lost all 10 wickets for 61 at Old Trafford. Last night, they might have restricted India to fewer than 271 for 8 had Graeme Swann (failing to stand like a greyhound in the slips) not dropped a relative sitter which would have made them 80 for 4. Still, England had matters under control until Dhoni played an impeccably timed innings yet again.
He bided his time and plundered the final five overs from which 60 runs were scored, 39 from the final two. It seemed too many until Cook and Kieswetter narrowed the gap. Then came disaster.
A very poor tour for...
Craig Kieswetter He was partly redeemed by last night's fighting innings, but he has shown himself to be limited as a batsman and keeper in this series, falling between two stools in the former, looking clumsy in the latter and helming England's shoddy fielding. They'll stick with him but Steve Davies can feel hard done by.
Alastair Cook Has seen off most doubters as a batsman, but as captain he has some way to go. Lacks certainty and flexibility. Looked perplexed when England were falling out with each other; exposed debutant Scott Borthwick with optimistic field placings; and brought on Ravi Bopara with two new men in last night.
Graeme Swann The best spin bowler in the world has had an indifferent trip. Has bowled neatly most of the time, though usually without bite, and under the new rules he must be prepared to work in powerplays. Must curb churlishness towards team-mates and autobiography's publication mid-tour was ill-advised.
Ravi Bopara The Essex all-rounder is so nearly a brilliant cricketer that it is tempting to keep faith. But he lacks that vital spark. He looks a little boy lost too often at the crease and bowls too many bad balls as a bowler. Had a real chance to nail a middle-order place here and fell short. May not be seen again.
... and the one hit
Steve Finn Out of the mists of defeat came a tall, dark, complete fast bowler. Finn was quick, accurate and clever. This was authentic stuff, he deserved better than his 7 for 136 in the last three matches and on more conducive pitches would have intimidated any opposition. Announced his genuine international arrival.
Eden Gardens, fifth ODI: India beat England by 95 runs; England won toss
A M Rahane c Kieswetter b Bresnan 42/0/6/61/78
G Gambhir b Finn 38/0/4/46/68
V Kohli b Finn 0/0/0/5/1
M K Tiwary c Kieswetter b Meaker 24/0/4/30/40
S K Raina run out 38/0/5/46/80
*†M S Dhoni not out 75/4/3/69/100
R A Jadeja c Bell b Patel 21/0/2/21/26
R Ashwin c Bairstow b Patel 7/0/0/10/6
P Kumar c Bairstow b Patel 16/1/1/12/15
R Vinay Kumar not out 0/0/0/0/1
Extras (b2 w8) 10
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 271
Fall 1-80, 2-80, 3-80, 4-123, 5-162, 6-206, 7-215, 8-259.
Did not bat V R Aaron.
Bowling T T Bresnan 9-0-36-1, S T Finn 10-2-47-2, S C Meaker 10-0-65-1, S R Patel 9-0-57-3, G P Swann 8-0-45-0, R S Bopara 4-1-19-0.
†C Kieswetter lbw b Jadeja 63/1/9/64/92
*A N Cook b Aaron 60/0/8/61/84
I J L Trott c Kohli b Jadeja 5/0/0/10/13
I R Bell c Dhoni b Ashwin 2/0/0/6/3
R S Bopara b Raina 4/0/0/16/23
J M Bairstow c Rahane b Jadeja 2/0/0/7/6
S R Patel c Dhoni b Jadeja 18/0/2/33/29
T T Bresnan c Raina b Tiwary 0/0/0/4/2
G P Swann not out 10/1/1/11/20
S C Meaker lbw b Ashwin 1/0/0/6/6
S T Finn c Dhoni b Ashwin 2/0/0/4/2
Extras (b4 w5) 9
Total (37 overs) 176
Fall 1-129, 2-134, 3-137, 4-137, 5-141, 6-155, 7-156, 8-167, 9-174.
Bowling P Kumar 5-0-34-0, R Vinay Kumar 3-0-21-0, R Ashwin 9-0-28-3, M K Tiwary 5-0-28-1, R A Jadeja 8-0-33-4, V R Aaron 3-0-19-1, S K Raina 4-0-9-1.
Umpires S Asnani and B F Bowden (NZ).
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