Yuvraj, Dhoni blast tons : India seal series
There's one distinct difference in the captaincy transition that India are under. Unlike his predecessor's staid presence on the field, Virat Kohli's body language is often a good indicator of India's fortunes on the field. Even in defence of a mammoth 381, the new Indian captain's face took the full gamut of human expression, ranging from hopelessness as he moved a fielder to the location of the previous hit boundary to unbridled delight at the fall of almost every England wicket or during the Yuvraj Singh-MS Dhoni partnership.
Eventually, that record 256-run fourth-wicket association between the two senior members of his side ensured India got the few extra runs that Eoin Morgan spoke off in Pune to complete a tense 15-run series-clinching win in yet another bat-v-bat contest.
But that India nearly lost despite scoring over 380 runs was because of a blinder from Eoin Morgan, whose ninth ODI hundred almost eclipsed the virtuoso efforts of Dhoni and Yuvraj. Morgan's 81 ball 102 kept England afloat even with the visitors needing 100 to get off the final eight overs of the game. Eventually, Morgan's blinder reached an unfortunate end courtesy a run-out as the Indian seamers heaved a collective sigh of relief after another unforgiving surface all but gobbled them up.
For a second time in as many games this series, India had to take the harder route to get a stranglehold of the match, their top-order proving flaky yet again, this time after being put in to bat. If it was 63 for 4 in Pune, here the hosts were reduced to 25 for 3 with Chris Woakes removing the openers besides accounting for the key wicket of Virat Kohli.
In contrast, England got their chase off to an earnest start despite the early loss of Alex Hales. Even though the run-rate only barely hovering above the six-run mark, the in-form pair of Jason Roy and Joe Root kept scoring a flurry of boundaries as the seamers failed to realise the demerits of bowling short and wide outside off-stump. Not until India introduced Ravindra Jadeja (1-45) did the run defence get a sense of control. Then Ravichandran Ashwin came along with his wickets to put India in the driver's seat.
Root, after scoring a seventh half-century of the tour, miscued a slog sweep off Ashwin after the offie made the crucial switch to bowling over the wicket. Jason Roy got 82 eye-catching runs before an attempted run to third man denied him a century. When Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler fell to Ashwin, England were staring down the barrel at 206 for 5 in the 32nd over before Morgan, in the company of Moeen Ali, began a spirited fightback.
The duo's 93-run stand, fortuitous at times but mostly exhilarating, was instrumental in keeping the run chase alive. Morgan was particularly brilliant in picking his moments - most notably deciding to play out Ashwin carefully while chancing his arm against Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav. Even as Bumrah encountered another off-day - conceding 81 runs from his nine overs for his two wickets - India's decision to pick an additional death bowler in Bhuvneshwar Kumar (in for Umesh Yadav) reaped rich benefits as the Uttar Pradesh seamer proved his worth - bowling five tight overs in the final 10 to help India across the line.
Earlier in the day, Yuvraj turned back the clock with a scintillating career-best 150 and Dhoni followed suit with a century of his own as India overcame their early wobble to post a mammoth total on the board. Yuvraj was at his regal best from the get go - the drives and pulls reminiscent of a bygone era of India's ODI history.
For a second game in the series, the teams were welcomed by a benign-looking pitch and with the possibility of dew later in the evening, Eoin Morgan had little qualms in inviting India to take first strike. The first ball of the innings - with KL Rahul cover-driving for four - served as an eerie premonition of things to come even if England's bowlers, Woakes in particular, did admirably well to win the first bout in the opening powerplay.
Yuvraj stayed in his element throughout, using his leverage to pull deliveries both in-front and behind square with metronomic precision. England, who'd picked an extra seamer in Liam Plunkett for Adil Rashid, overdid their use of the short delivery, particularly on a ground with short square boundaries.
Yuvraj reached his half-century off 56 deliveries while Dhoni took 67 for his feat. The duo picked up pace through the middle phase of the innings, slamming his 150th six enroute scoring his first ODI century since March 2011. The partnership chugged past one milestone after another, eventually culminating at 256 - the highest fourth-wicket stand against England in ODIs. After Yuvraj's dismissal, Dhoni turned aggressor - eventually finishing with half a dozen sixes as India, helped by smaller cameos from Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, added 120 in the final 10. It was a total, as even Yuvraj envisioned at the half-way stage was formidable but certainly not safe.
Brief Scores: India 381/6 in 50 overs (Yuvraj Singh 150, MS Dhoni 134; Chris Woakes 4-60) beat England 366/8 in 50 overs (Eoin Morgan 102, Jason Roy 82; R Ashwin 3-65) by 15 runs.