Mohali: 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 North Indian city of Mohali.
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.
Though the hosts had the game in control after putting England into bat, they conceded as many as 100 runs in the last ten overs with unheralded Joe Root (57 not out off 45 balls) and Kevin Pietersen (76) providing the late sparks with some lusty hits.
Captain Alastair Cook was another notable performer with a knock of 76. But the Indians held their nerve during the run chase and it was ultimately Raina who guided the team home. 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, the unheralded Joe Root (57 not out) and Kevin Pietersen (76) provided the late sparks with some lusty hits as England recovered from a mid-innings slump to post a decent total.
Put into bat, England lost three wickets in quick succession in the middle of the innings after a reasonably good start but young Root unleashed a stunning counter-attack to steer the total past the 250-run mark, which looked doubtful at one stage. 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. Bell decided to step out against Ishant but could not get to the pitch of the ball and Kumar pulled off a brilliant diving catch at the third man region. Pietersen, who joined the action after Bell's dismissal, started off watchfully and took some time to get off the mark.
The experienced duo of Cook and Pietersen kept the scoreboard moving with gentle nudges and pushes and did not take 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.