A rejuvenated India clinched the one-day series against England as the hosts rode on the batting heroics of Rohit Sharma (83) and Suresh Raina (89 not out) to fashion a comfortable five-wicket victory in the penultimate game and take an unassailable 3-1 lead in Mohali on Wednesday.
The Indians first restricted the visitors to 257 for seven and then overcame some anxious moments before overhauling the target with 15 balls to spare in a floodlit contest played in cold conditions at the PCA stadium.
The Men in Blue held their nerve during the run chase and it was ultimately Raina who guided the team home. Raina unbeaten 89 came off just 79 balls and included nine boundaries and one six.
It was a creditable series victory for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men who had come under fire for indifferent performances in recent times, which saw the team lose a Test series to England and an ODI series defeat against arch rivals Pakistan at home.
It was Rohit Sharma, rated as highly talented but one who has seldom delivered, who turned the spotlight on himself as he grabbed with both hands an unexpected opportunity to feature in the playing eleven as an opener in place of Ajinkya Rahane. Sharma proved his class with some delightful shots to lay the foundation for the chase and his show will enhance his chances of cementing a place in the ODI team.
Ravindra Jadeja hit the winning runs by taking three off Jade Dernbach to trigger off scenes of wild celebrations in the galleries and the Indian dressing room where the players hugged each other.
Earlier, put into bat, England lost three wickets in quick succession in the middle of the innings after a reasonably good start but young Joe Root unleashed a stunning counter-attack to steer the total past the 250-run mark.
The unheralded Root (57 not out) and Pietersen (76) provided the late sparks with some lusty hits as England recovered from a mid-innings slump to post a decent 257 for seven. Root, who clobbered eight boundaries and a six during his 45-ball blitzkrieg, and Pietersen were largely responsible for England recovery, while captain Alastair Cook laid the foundation with a solid 76.
The visitors scored as many as 100 runs in the last ten overs as the Indians, who had the game under control for most part of it, suddenly appeared to lose the plot with Root and Pietersen going on the offensive.
Spinner Ravindra Jadeja was the pick of the Indian bowlers with 3/39 while Ishant Sharma 2/47 and R Ashwin 2/63 were the other wicket-takers on a Mohali track, which appeared to be good for batting.
England started their innings on a cautious note as the two Indian new ball bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed got the ball to move around in the initial overs. Both Kumar and Shami, who proved to be a little expensive in the first spell, troubled the batsmen as openers Cook and Ian Bell played and missed on a few occasions. But they were lucky not to edge the ball. With Shami giving away 18 runs in his first three overs, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought in Ishant Sharma from the pavilion end and the lanky seamer bowled a probing line and troubled the batsmen. The opening pair put on 37 runs for the first wicket before Ishant provided the breakthrough by evicting Bell, who perished to a rash stroke.
The experienced duo of Cook and Pietersen then kept the scoreboard moving with without taking too many risks as they steered England past the 100-mark. As the innings wore on, the Mohali track became easier to bat on and Cook and Pietersen gradually accelerated the pace of scoring. The duo stitched 95 runs for the second wicket before off spinner R Ashwin came to the rescue of the team by dismissing Cook in what appeared to be a dubious decision by umpire Sudhir Asnani. Cook was wrapped on the pad while trying to play forward but the ball appeared to have pitched outside the leg stump line. Cook slammed 13 boundaries during his knock, which came off 106 balls.
The departure of Cook triggered off a collapse of sorts as Eoin Morgan (3) and Samit Patel (1) perished in quick succession with England slipping from a comfortable 132 for one to 142 for four. The visitors could have suffered another jolt on the same score but Virat Kohli dropped Root at first slip when he had not even opened his account with Ishant being the unlucky bowler.
Pietersen and Root ensured that there was no further setback as both played with a more positive frame of mind and counter-attacked the Indian bowlers.
Root was the more aggressive of the two initially as he smashed a few boundaries before Pietersen also joined him with a flurry of strokes. They completed their 50-run stand in just 46 balls. Pietersen completed his 24th ODI half-century by sending a Suresh Raina delivery to the third man boundary and opened up to play some glorious shots on both sides of the wicket.
He was particularly severe on Ashwin whose last over yielded as many as 17 runs. He then singled out Ishant for special treatment clobbering him for two boundaries and a mighty six before the pacer brought an end to his aggression by castling him with a yorker. Root got another reprieve on 42 when Suresh Raina dropped an easy catch with Jadeja being the unlucky bowler.
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