England through to final, India winless on tour
England 7 for 201 (Taylor 82, Buttler 67, Binny 3-33) beat India 200 (Rahane 73, Finn 3-36, Moeen 2-35) by 3 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England made heavy weather of a small target on a WACA pitch of yore, making their way to the final against Australia on Sunday and keeping India winless on their tour of Australia. Once again their bowlers pulled India back after a decent start, keeping them down to 200 after they had been 0 for 83, but their batsmen let the up-and-down pitch play on their minds to be 5 for 66 at one point. The nuggety James Taylor and the authoritative Jos Buttler, though, rescued them with a 125-run partnership that took just 23.2 overs.
India have been no stranger to collapses on this tour, but it will hurt them that today's came after Shikhar Dhawan had finally fought through a tough period and with Ajinkya Rahane looking on course to become only the second non-Australian opener to score a century at the WACA Ground. While the two batted, the pitch looked like the normal WACA one, but once the wickets began to fall, the real monsters showed up. In one over MS Dhoni was hit on the helmet and below the knee roll from similar length. Early in the chase Ian Bell fell lbw to a similar delivery, and the other England batsmen came in with an inherent mistrust of the pitch after that.
India's bowlers made it tough for England by staying accurate, but arguably England had caused the damage in the first half. Put in, India began the day all right but, after fighting it out through the tough period, Dhawan cut at Chris Woakes with no feet, and toe-ended him through to Buttler. At 1 for 83 in the 21st over, it was a decent platform for Virat Kohli to bat at No. 3 - India have been saving him should a wicket fall early - but India's middle order fell to a familiar and unusual foe.
Almost all through the Test series in the English summer, India didn't quite figure out how to play Moeen Ali. They were caught between disdain and extreme caution, and on evidence of Friday, Moeen has the wood on them. Neither of his two next wickets - in the space of eight balls - had anything to do with the pitch. A moment after Buttler had asked the long-off to move a touch wider, Kohli looked to either clear him or beat him to his right, but couldn't do either. This time India had Raina coming in at No. 4, and he left even before his eyes would have adjusted to the bright light in Perth. He repeated his Brisbane dismissal with a premeditated charge at Moeen, and this time he managed a thick edge as opposed to the stumping at the Gabba.
It can't be easy for Ambati Rayudu, entering in the middle of another crisis. He is asked to bat at No. 3 when India start poorly, and here he would have been relegated had India lost their third wicket after the 35th over. Rayudu couldn't handle the heat that was on, handing Stuart Broad his first wicket of the series after the bowler made a good comeback from his ordinary first spell.
Rahane meanwhile had got into a flow after the edgy start. The innings depended on him and Dhoni with England giving nothing away. You could sense a wicket around the corner, and to expedite it came the batting Powerplay. On cue Rahane opened the face when Steven Finn got the ball to hold its line. Once again Dhoni was caught at the death with no recognised batsman around him. Once the pitch got Dhoni out, the rest imploded, except for some merry hitting from Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma, who was playing despite not being in the World Cup squad.
The 35 the two added gave them something to bowl at, and they began well. From the time Bell fell to the shooter, there was unease among England batsmen. Pressure built, and Moeen pulled out a Kohli-like dismissal off the bowling of Axar Patel. Joe Root drove hard to give Stuart Binny a tough return catch. Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara came out looking suspiciously at the pitch, and got out softly to Binny.
At 5 for 66, India looked like they could just come out with something to show for the tour, but Taylor and Buttler had other ideas. Until now it had seemed that Taylor had got stuck at one end, but in the company of Buttler he batted industriously. Around this time Ravindra Jadeja was introduced too, in the 21st over. Coming back from a shoulder injury, Jadeja didn't have quite the zing his bowling earlier had. Easy singles flowed, and with the asking rate in control the two batsmen had no problem accepting those singles.
Buttler was three when he pushed Taylor for a non-existent single. Rahane swooped in fast from cover, and threw while diving but missed the stumps. Buttler was so far that had Rahane run in with the ball it would have still been close. On such moments are games turned.
Buttler kept hitting the odd boundary off remotely loose balls without taking any risk, which gave Taylor the time to accumulate peacefully. For a situation as precarious as this, the two knocked off the remaining runs with relative ease. They hardly played an ill-advised shot, and when they did - like Taylor did against Axar in the 39th over, jumping put of the crease and then sweeping because he had been beaten in the flight - they had the rub of the green going their way. This one went for four off the bottom edge. The boundary brought the target to under 50.
England still didn't stroll through with Taylor and Buttler falling just short of the target, but that was more reminder that they are England. They eventually won with 3.1 overs to spare.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo