A masterful hundred from Joe Root followed by a swashbuckling highest ever ODI score of 50 from David Willey set England enough of a platform to take their three match ODI series against India to a decider.
As usual, the opening pair of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow got off to a solid start, sharing a 69-run partnership before the introduction of the last game’s man-of-the-match Kuldeep Yadav saw both batters dismissed for 40 and 38 respectively. Roy was caught by Umesh Yadav in the 11th over and when Bairstow was bowled in 15th, it looked as though Kuldeep was set to wreak the same havoc he did in Thursday’s opening ODI at Trent Bridge.
However, Root, accompanied by captain Eoin Morgan, seemed determined to not let that happen. The two experienced campaigners shared a 103-run partnership before Morgan slapped a full-toss straight to Shikhar Dhawan on the boundary when he could have easily dispatched it for four or six.
Morgan’s dismissal looked to have been the turning point in the innings with the destructive Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler following soon after for single figure scores, but amongst the chaos at the other end Root held firm.
The Test captain had been dropped for the final IT20 and was feeling some pressure knowing that the injured Alex Hales was waiting in the wings once he returns from a side strain at the end of this series, but the situation was made for Root. He crafted an excellent hundred in the circumstances, hitting just the eight fours and the solitary six but piercing the gaps beautifully and running hard.
With Moeen Ali holing out off Yuzvendra Chahal for 13, Willey joined Root at the crease and set about continuing his finest summer yet with the bat for his country as he finally transferred his County cricket form to international level.
The left-arm seamer has long been used as an opener for Northants and Yorkshire in white-ball cricket and showed why as he passed 50 for the first time in an England shirt, striking at a strike rate of 161.29.
It was an excellent innings and, after Root set the platform for him with his hundred, Willey provided the innings with the impetus to pass the 300 mark as England finished on 322-7 with Root run out off the final ball for 113.
In response, India started their chase brightly with Rohit Sharma and Dhawan posting 49 runs for the first wicket when Mark Wood’s extra pace burst through Sharma’s defences having scored just 15. It was an important wicket for the hosts given Sharma’s excellent hundred in the first ODI.
In the next two overs, the wickets of Dhawan (caught Stokes bowled Willey for 36) and KL Rahul (caught Buttler bowled Plunkett for 0) followed, leaving captain Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina to rebuild the Indian innings.
With the score at 60-3, the two did just that as they shared an 80-run partnership to put India in the driving seat before Moeen’s LBW dismissal of Kohli for 45 gave England an opening. Just five overs later, Rashid bowled Raina for 46 to leave India needing 168 runs to win with just MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya as recognised batsman.
Within the space of a few overs the tables had turned on the Indians and England were now on top and when they removed Pandya (caught Buttler bowled Plunkett for 21) in the 39th over, they were left in a position that even Dhoni could not dig them out of.
The 37-year-old tried his best to take India close to England’s total, but the hosts’ excellent bowling limited his scoring options to just two fours and no sixes and his refusal to run and give the strike to India’s long tail drew boos from the crowd.
Dhoni’s lack of faith in the tail was perhaps justified when number eight batsman Umesh Yadav (who has a first-class hundred to his name) played a ridiculous attacking shot off the bowling of Rashid and was promptly stumped by Buttler for 0.
From then on England, whose spin pairing of Moeen and Rashid bowled excellently, dominated Dhoni and the Indian tail and when Dhoni was caught by Stokes off Plunkett for 37 in the 47th over, it was well and truly game over.
Through a combination of Plunkett (who took 4/46) and Willey at the death, England mopped up the tail to bowl India out for 236, 86 runs short of their total, handing them an equalising win in the three-game series.
It was a much better performance from England who, despite allowing Kuldeep to take 3/68, played the Indian attack much more effectively. It meant that their bowlers had a somewhat challenging target of over 300 to bowl at and thus they delivered, setting up the series for a cracking finale at Headingley next Tuesday before the Test match series begins in August.