Cooked by the ‘finisher'

The Mumbai Mohali connection: Apurva Rahane, sister of Ajinkya Rahane, celebrates at their Mumbai home after the opener had received the Man of the Match award in the Mohali one-dayer.-PTI

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who gained praise from Alastair Cook for being a great “finisher”, felt that the series victory should not be seen as a “revenge” for the recent defeat suffered in England. “Revenge is a very strong word. I don't think the word revenge should be used. On the one hand, we talk about the spirit of cricket, and on the other hand there's this talk of revenge, which I don't think is right.” Over to Rakesh Rao.

England's best batting performance of the series lacked the support from its bowlers to prevent India from taking a winning 3-0 lead in the series at Mohali. Without a one-day series victory in India since 1984, England gave it all in this crucial clash to stay alive in the five-match contest but it did not prove enough.

The visitor had smelt a possible victory by getting four wickets in the middle of the innings. Cruising at 190 for one in its chase of 299, India suddenly seemed to be losing its way at 235 for five before Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja came together to seal the series.

After dismal showings at Hyderabad and New Delhi, England had plenty of positives to choose from this performance but the close defeat was always going to be difficult to deal with.

England put up 298 for four on the board with a gritty display. Jonathan Trott, the highest run-getter of the year in one-day internationals, anchored the innings with an unbeaten 98. Half centuries from Kevin Pietersen and Samit Patel, who came up with a timely career-best knock, boosted the tally and posed India its toughest challenge of the series.

For once, openers Ajinkya Rahane and Parthiv Patel gave a good start and the chase was well and truly on. Parthiv's dismissal brought in an in-form Gautam Gambhir and England seemed headed for another embarrassing defeat.

Rahane and Gambhir creamed the English bowling without looking needlessly aggressive. They effectively rotated the strike, never missed a chance to send the ball across the ropes and added to the frustration of the visiting team. Rahane, in particular, seemed to have learnt from the past mistakes and did not fall to the lure of punishing the short deliveries. His stroke selection showed maturity and he proved an ideal foil for Gambhir who flicked and nudged effectively for his runs without letting the asking run-rate to mount menacingly.

However, just when another big defeat of England appeared on the cards, there was a twist in the script. After Rahane and Gambhir had put on 111 runs for the second wicket, England struck four times in nine overs. Gambhir was out to a brilliant one-handed diving catch by Pietersen, Rahane missed his maiden one-day century after offering a leading edge to mid-off and Suresh Raina departed after facing just three deliveries. Virat Kohli, lucky to be dropped at four, took control with a brisk 35 but Swann had him leg- before as India lost four wickets for 45 runs.

Thereafter, it was left to the last recognised batting pair of Dhoni and Jadeja to finish the job. They did, but not before Jadeja survived a certain run-out chance, thanks to the generosity of the flamboyant wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter.

Despite the heart-breaking defeat, England enjoyed its best day in the field. The batsmen followed the basic principles of run-gathering by not missing chances to steal the singles. Trott's assuring presence in the middle gave the confidence to the batsmen at the other end to step up the run-rate that led to England reaching close to 300.

However, the last-over defeat, that came after Dhoni despatched the first two deliveries from Tim Bresnan to boundaries, pained England no less.

“We've stepped up our performance but it's a tough defeat to take, especially when it's so close. If you are hammered it's almost easier,” said Cook making no attempt to hide the frustration. “I think the skill is there to handle these conditions,” he added. “The talent is there but for some reason, in these three games we haven't produced it. Why, I don't know. I don't think there is a magic answer. We just made too many mistakes to win a game against a world-class side. We haven't made those mistakes up until this series. It is frustrating.”

The England captain pointed at the team's fielding as the main reason for the defeat. “Our fielding has been slightly below par on this tour, which is very unusual for us. It cost us 20-25 runs in field — and that was probably the difference between the two sides. The batting was better and I thought we bowled better. It was mistakes in the field that cost us. In the last two or three years, in all forms of the game, we have been an outstanding fielding side and I'm sure we can get back to that again,” said Cook, ending on an optimistic note.

Dhoni, who gained praise from Cook for being a great “finisher”, felt that the series victory should not be seen as a “revenge” for the recent defeat suffered in England. “Revenge is a very strong word. I don't think the word revenge should be used. On the one hand, we talk about the spirit of cricket, and on the other hand there's this talk of revenge, which I don't think is right.”

THE SCORES

England:A. Cook lbw b Vinay 3, C. Kieswetter b Kohli 36, J. Trott (not out) 98, K. Pietersen lbw b Jadeja 64, R. Bopara b Praveen 24, Samit Patel (not out) 70, Extras (lb-1, w-2) 3; Total (for four wkts. in 50 overs) 298.

Fall of wickets:1-8, 2-53, 3-154, 4-195.

India bowling:Praveen 10-0-56-1, Vinay 9-1-64-1, Kohli 3-0-20-1, Yadav 10-0-71-0, Ashwin 10-0-45-0, Jadeja 8-0-41-1.

India:Parthiv lbw b Bresnan 38, A. Rahane c Cook b Finn 91, G. Gambhir c Pietersen b Finn 58, V. Kohli lbw b Swann 35, S. Raina c Pietersen b Bresnan 0, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 35, R. Jadeja (not out) 26, Extras (lb-8, nb-2, w-7) 17; Total (for five wkts. in 49.2 overs) 300.

Fall of wickets:1-79, 2-190, 3-212, 4-217, 5-235.

England bowling:Finn 10-0-44-2, Bresnan 7.2-0-62-2, Dernbach 10-0-69-0, Samit 10-0-50-0, Swann 10-0-59-1, Bopara 2-0-8-0.

Man-of-the-Match:A. Rahane.