In a script not even Bollywood would dare to dream up, M S Dhoni struck the winning runs as India beat England by seven wickets in his home town of Ranchi. It puts the hosts 2-1 up in the five-match series and raises questions for the new one-day coach, Ashley Giles.
If abject performances by English visitors on Indian soil were an aberration, there would be fears of contrivance. As it was, for the second match in a row England were so poor that Dhoni could manipulate the drama at will.
A meagre total of 155, chased down with more than 20 overs to spare, meant little blame attached to the bowlers. Although Jade Dernbach's figures of nought for 45 from five overs were as revealing as statistics can be, the 26-year-old is not the most expensive in ODI history.
Dhoni's own sense of history was acute. If he was the author of his own hagiography, England's batsmen were the architects of their own downfall. This may be an experimental squad, but if the younger players are looking to their seniors for guidance, they will need to search beyond the boundary rope.
England's top six had 449 caps to their name; three of them belonged to Joe Root, and the 22-year-old was comfortably his side's top scorer. "We found it hard to judge what a good score was" and "We got ourselves out with poor shot-selection or poor technique" are not what Giles will want to hear his captain Alastair Cook confessing in post-match press conferences again.
In a clear tactic to see off the two new balls, openers Cook and Ian Bell eschewed boldness in favour of parsimony. Bell took frugality to a new level; after 18 balls he had just a single to his name. The pressure transferred to Cook, which explains the rashness of his attempted clip to a ball from Shami Ahmed that swung back to trap him lbw.
Kevin Pietersen's arrival, or perhaps guilt, encouraged Bell to open up. By the 15th over England were 68 for 1 and memories of their 325 at Rajkot flashed through the mind. Then umpire Ravi intervened and the memories were of Kochi collapses. There was no bat involved when Pietersen was given out off Ishant Sharma for 17. However poor the decision, there was no excuse for Pietersen's ground-standing insolence.
Then 68 for 2 became 68 for 3 when Bell compounded the poor decision as Dhoni held a sharp catch standing up to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Eoin Morgan and Root consolidated with a partnership of 29 runs from 50 balls that Morgan cut short with a reckless sweep.
Craig Kieswetter then gave a convincing impression of a man out of his depth. There was homework to be done after Ravindra Jadeja's arm- ball antics in Kochi but the wicketkeeper played as if the dog had eaten his. That brought Samit Patel to the crease with 25 overs remaining. The 28-year-old lasted short enough to ensure that England lost two batsmen within six balls. It left Root to fight a futile battle with the score on 98 for 5.
And fight Root did. He and his fellow Yorkshireman Tim Bresnan manned the coalface with a stubbornness born of deep-veined county pride. They were together when England took the powerplay in the 36th over but the urgency required did for Root when he edged Sharma to Dhoni. His 39 runs may have taken 57 balls but the manner of their making offered intimations of a brighter future and a message to those in the team supposedly older and wiser.
Root's partnership with Bresnan lasted two balls shy of 12 overs and was worth an innings-high 47 runs. Then for the fourth time a wicket followed within six balls as Bresnan was bamboozled by Ravichandran Ashwin. James Tredwell and Steven Finn yielded seven runs, and 155 was never going to be enough.
Two contrasting half-century partnerships ensured that was the case. After Finn disturbed Ajinkya Rahane's off stump, Gautam Gambhir and the elegant Virat Kohli put on 67 in 15 overs. Yuvraj Singh and Kohli, who finished unbeaten on 77, then crafted 66 runs in 48 balls. Yuvraj's dismissal brought Dhoni to the crease with 12 runs required.
"I think it was the perfect script," said Dhoni after his pull shot marked the end of the fairytale. A script more Disney than Grimm, but certainly a fairytale. Of that, Dhoni left no doubt.
We apologise that we are unable to print live pictures from yesterday's play. This paper, along with other British media groups, is not publishing any live pictures from the India tour in protest at the Indian Cricket Board's refusal to grant access to certain major picture agencies, which we view as a restriction on the freedom of the press
India won the toss, chose to field
* A N Cook lbw b Shami Ahmed 17/0/3/28
I R Bell c †Dhoni b Kumar 25/0/3/43
K P Pietersen c †Dhoni b Sharma 17/0/2/20
J E Root c †Dhoni b Sharma 39/0/4/57
E J G Morgan c Yuvraj Singh b Ashwin 10/0/1/30
† C Kieswetter b Jadeja 0/0/0/3
S R Patel lbw b Jadeja 0/0/0/4
T T Bresnan b Ashwin 25/0/3/37
J C Tredwell not out 4/0/0/18
S T Finn c Yuvraj Singh b Raina 3/0/0/12
J W Dernbach b Jadeja 0/0/0/2
Extras (lb 6, w9): 15
Total (42.2 overs): 155
Fall:1-24, 2-68, 3-68, 4-97, 5-98, 6-98, 7-145, 8-145, 9-155.
Bowling B Kumar 10-2-40-1, Shami Ahmed 8-0-23-1, I Sharma 7-0-29 -2, R A Jadeja 6.2-0-19-3, R Ashwin 10-0-37-2, S K Raina 1-0-1-1.
G Gambhir c Root b Tredwell 33/0/4/53
A M Rahane b Finn 0/0/0/4
V Kohli not out 77/2/9/79
Yuvraj Singh b Tredwell 30/0/6/21
*† M S Dhoni not out 10/0/2/12
Extras (b1, lb1, w5): 7
Total (for 3, 28.1 overs): 157
Fall 1-11, 2-78, 3-144.
Did not bat S K Raina, R A Jadeja, R Ashwin, B Kumar, I Sharma, Shami Ahmed.
Bowling S T Finn 9.1-0-50-1, J W Dernbach 5-0-45-0, T T Bresnan 7-2-31-0, J C Tredwell 7-1-29-2.
Umpires S J Davis and S Ravi.
TV Umpire V A Kulkarni.
Match referee A J Pycroft.
India lead the five-match series 2-1