Birmingham: Ajinkya Rahane’s maiden one-day international hundred set the seal on a crushing nine-wicket series-clinching win over England in the fourth ODI at Edgbaston on Tuesday. Victory saw world champions India take an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series. Bhuvneshwar Kumar took two early wickets, a double blow from which England never recovered as they were dismissed for a meagre 206.
Rahane (106) and Shikhar Dhawan (97 not out) then pulverised England’s attack in an opening stand of 183. “It was a very tough day,” England captain Alastair Cook told Sky Sports. “India have outskilled us, bowled better, batted better and fielded better.” Delighted India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said his side had played a “perfect game again”, with Rahane seizing his chance to open in place of the injured Rohit Sharma. “We’re getting better and that’s very important,” said Dhoni.
“It was a good toss to win and the fast bowlers made it slightly easier for the spinners. “We rely a lot on our openers so it was good to get Shikhar back in form — I’m very glad he got a big one (innings) in this game. “Rahane was always third in line to open if Rohit or Shikhar was injured. It is a good slot for him and maybe now we can have Rohit in the middle order.”
India gave their raucous fans, who accounted for some two-thirds of a 21,000 crowd, plenty to cheer with a blizzard of boundaries at the start of their run-chase. Rahane hit four fours in five balls off James Anderson — the best an off-drive. Left-hander Dhawan, who struggled for runs in India’s preceding 3-1 Test series defeat by England, then struck a superb straight drive off fast bowler Steven Finn. Off-spinner Moeen Ali wasn’t spared either, Rahane slog-sweeping him for six to complete a 60-ball fifty.
Dhawan too went to fifty, off 57 balls, with a six driven straight back over Anderson’s head. Rahane then completed a first century in 33 matches at this level, having faced 96 balls, including nine fours and four sixes. But just when it seemed India would inflict England’s first home ODI defeat by 10 wickets, Rahane drove a Gurney full toss straight to Cook at cover. However, Dhawan sealed an emphatic win with more than 19 overs to spare when he smashed left-arm seamer Harry Gurney for six. This defeat meant England had now lost five of their last six ODI series.
It was the first innings that proved decisive, with Kumar reducing England to 16 for two with two wickets in the fifth over after Dhoni won the toss. Recall all-rounder Ali made 67 — England’s first fifty of the series — but by the time he came in the damage had been done. Whereas spin had proved the main cause of England’s undoing in 133-run and six-wicket defeats in Cardiff and Nottingham respectively, on Tuesday they were 23 for three before a slow bowler came on.
Kumar struck twice in four balls to remove both Alex Hales and Cook. Hales (six) was bowled by the first ball he received from Kumar when completely defeated by an inswinger. Three balls later Cook (nine) cut Kumar low to Suresh Raina in the gully, making it 38 innings since his last ODI hundred. Left-hander Ali struck three sixes but his 50-ball knock ended when he was bowled, making room, by Ashwin. This series, which marks the start of both teams’ lead-in to next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, concludes at Headingley on Friday.