An angry, frustrated and sore Kevin Pietersen struck the hundred he demanded for from his ailing England team but it failed to prevent India strolling to another comfortable victory and take a 5-0 lead in the series.
Pietersen left the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack with more than the prospect of a 7-0 series whitewash to worry about as he, Andrew Flintoff and Stuart Broad finished the game with worrying injuries. Pietersen strained his right side during his unbeaten 111, an injury that affected the England captain's batting during the second half of his innings, whilst Broad hobbled of four balls in to his eighth over with a sore left hamstring.
The most disconcerting sight though was of Flintoff leaving the field to talk to England's medical staff about his left foot. England insist that the problem was caused by Flintoff rolling his left ankle in dodgy foot-holes whilst bowling, and it is not a recurrence of the chronic condition that has led to him having four operations on the joint. But the anxiety caused by any issue surrounding Flintoff's left ankle, no matter how minor they may appear, is understandable.
The predicament leaves England in an awful pickle and it is anyone's guess who will bowl in the sixth one-dayer in Guwahati on Saturday. Sajid Mahmood and Amjad Khan, who are currently in Bangalore as members of the England Performance Squad, have been added to the squad and they will travel to remote North East India today.
Pietersen's hundred, the first by an England batsman in 15 one-day matches, enabled his side to post the competitive score of 270, a total that gave the tourists hopes of winning their first major game of the tour. But a breathtaking 20 over partnership of 136 between Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar dashed those aspirations.
The pair made mincemeat of an England attack that was far too wayward, and at times thoughtless. Heavy evening dew did not help Pietersen's bowlers but they must know that it is criminal to bowl short and wide to a batsman that cuts the ball as brutally as Sehwag.
Sehwag's onslaught - his 91 came off just 73 balls - allowed Tendulkar to ease his way back in to form. The body of the little master may not be as lithe as it once was but the skill and desire to score runs is still there. The form of India's batsmen and the fitness of England's bowlers will give Pietersen plenty to think about over the coming week, especially with the Test series now being only two weeks away.
"I am suffering, Broady (Broad) is suffering and Fred (Flintoff) is suffering," said an agitated Pietersen. "I will be fine and I will play (in Guwahati) but we will have to have a look at Broady and Fred. There are a few niggles that are knocking about but I don't want to go in to them, it is time for us to stand up and be counted.
"I was pretty angry when I got back to the dressing room. It is probably the first time since I have been captain that I have been angry, really angry. I cannot fault the boys for their effort but we did not bowl well enough in those first 20 overs. We were too short and wide, and we did not hit the pitch as hard as we should have. It is quite difficult to set fields when you have superb players like Sehwag and Tendulkar in form. Goodness, as a captain it is pretty difficult.
"I don't know how we will combat India, they are playing fantastic fearless cricket, and we will have to produce something special to beat them. We have to just keep going. I want to win two games. We have two left and I really want to try and pull something off."
England removed Tendulkar, Sehwag and the extremely dangerous Yuvraj Singh in the space of 20 balls but the damage had already been inflicted. The run rate required by India was never an issue and it allowed Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina to play themselves in rather than get after the bowling immediately. Dhoni and Raina each reached fifty but it was Rohit Sharma who finished the game with 38 balls remaining.
England made two changes to the side that lost in Bangalore, with Stephen Harmison replacing James Anderson and Alastair Cook being selected ahead of Ian Bell. Cook's selection had to be made with the coming Test series in mind - the opener has many qualities but utilising the Powerplays in one-day cricket is not one of them.
The changes allowed Essex to supply England with both its openers for the first time since Graham Gooch and John Stephenson walked out together at The Oval against Australia in 1989. Cook and Ravi Bopara both fell in the opening 10 overs but Pietersen was positive from the moment he took guard. His first five scoring shots were boundaries.
Pietersen's innings lost momentum as his rib injury began to bite. Indeed, he failed to strike a boundary between the 35th and 49th over.
Pietersen received excellent support from two of his team-mates. Paul Collingwood scratched around like a hen, appearing as though he would get out to every ball, but the fighting and survival instincts of the 32 year-old should never be underestimated. He put on 89 with Pietersen.
With the stage set for Flintoff to produce fireworks he edged his third ball to slip. The dismissal ended England's chances of reaching 300.
The adaptable and capable Owais Shah made up for Flintoff's departure, striking a classy unbeaten 66. Shah added 112 with his captain but Pietersen's inability to find the boundary meant that England had to settle for a competitive rather than winning score. But the manner in which they bowled suggests that a total of 300 would not have been enough.Reuse content