Identity swap movies have rarely been executed better than this. Sometimes you can see the join before incredulity kicks in, but what has happened in the past few weeks to England and India has been perfectly seamless. Trading Places starring Alastair Cook and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Not long ago, England looked as though they could not lose, now India cannot stop winning. It has been a complete exchange of faculties, skills and personalities, and so it spectacularly continued last night. India, who lost eight international matches without reply on their summer tour of England took a 4-0 lead in this one-day series, romping home by six wickets.
The tourists, who made two bowling changes but none to the batting line-up which has been largely responsible for getting them into the mess, were puny. Bowled out for the third time in the series, this time for 220, they never had the remotest prospect of containing their opponents.
India lost three early wickets as England made effective use of both the new balls. But with two novices to come, the fast bowler, Stuart Meaker, in his first match and the leg-spinner, Scott Borthwick, in his second in place of a rested Graeme Swann, they must have known that big trouble loomed.
The vibrant cream of India's young middle order did most of the rest. The 24-year-old left-hander Suresh Raina and the 22-year-old right hander Virat Kohli, with respectively 129 and 68 one-day caps, eventually did much as they pleased. Their third-wicket partnership was ended at 131 when Raina tried to make merry – well Diwali is almost here, so why not? – once too often and was bowled after scything his way to 80 from 62 balls.
By then the exercise was purely academic. Kohli finished the job with a luscious unbeaten 86 from 99 balls. India had 59 balls to spare, fewer than in Delhi, more than in Mohali, but plenty. Only in the first match of the series have they had to bat their full complement and then they batted first and dismissed England in no time.
"I can't fault the effort, commitment or desire to win," said Cook, England's captain. "But what we are doing in training isn't happening in the middle. As I said when we were winning at home in the summer, it wouldn't always be that straightforward."
He cannot have imagined, however, that the road would become this rocky so quickly. It has been an embarrassingly one-sided affair which England can barely excuse by pointing to their missing stars such as Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad. For every English absentee, India can probably name two, including the most illustrious of them all, Sachin Tendulkar.
Heretical though it may be to say, neither Tendulkar nor the rest have been missed, except in one regard. The last time India played in the Wankhede Stadium it was full to the rafters for the World Cup final. Last night half the seats were empty in what many suggested was the ground's lowest attendance for a one-day international.
Various explanations were given from Diwali to World Cup fatigue. Overriding all may be the Sachin element. Without him, India to Indians are incomplete. If a full Mumbai house had been on their backs from start to finish it hardly bears contemplation how England might have progressed. It is too simplistic to report that fortunes have completely changed in a month; this series is merely a continuation of England's form in this country since 2003. Of the last 17 matches against India here, England have won only one.
There was scant chance of that record being altered in the win column. Before the first powerplay of 10 overs was out, England had lost both openers. Cook, having a moderate time of it, was leg before as was Craig Kieswetter soon after he started playing the role of pinch-hitter at last.
A brief stand between Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen ended when Trott was bowled by one keeping low, Pietersen was caught on the boundary and the rest perished to a mixture of ill-conceived strokes and misjudgements. Ravichandran Ashwin conceded 17 runs from his first over, 21 off his next nine, the new speedster Varun Aaron (crazy name, crazy kid) clocked 90mph and clean bowled three batsmen.
Steve Finn bowled like the wind and gave Raina a volley of abuse at his dismissal. Borthwick eventually had a torrid time but showed real promise. England have been displeased with some of the sledging they have received in this series and Samit Patel's Indian background has been raised tastelessly by opponents. But that is not the reason England are 4-0 down and heading – seamlessly – for five in Kolkata tomorrow.Reuse content