Dhoni helps India draw level with crushing win
India 285 for 6 (Dhoni 72, Jadeja 61*) beat England 158 (Pietersen 42, Bhuvneshwar 3-29) by 127 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kochi, in tourist terms at least, is the gateway to the backwaters but India, 1-0 down in the ODI series with four to play, were in no mood to take that journey. MS Dhoni, impassioned not just with the bat but just as strikingly in every aspect of his captaincy, made that abundantly clear with every muscle flexed and every order barked and it was England who were sunk without trace in a 127-run defeat.
England's pursuit of 286 always looked a daunting task and it became an improbable one from the moment that Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan in the space of three balls in an outstanding new-ball spell. There is nothing like a humid evening in Kochi to perk up a swing bowler and Bhuvneshwar, a 22-year-old from Uttar Pradesh playing in only his fifth ODI, also summoned impressive stamina as Dhoni ran his 10-over spell through without interruption and was rewarded with his best international figures of 3 for 29.
But the match had swung India's way much earlier than that - and it was Dhoni, a captain deemed to be under pressure, and Ravindra Jadeja who were at the heart of it. England had sensed they held an element of control, at the very least, for much of India's innings but 108 runs from the last 10 overs, 68 from the last five, shook that notion to the core.
As so often, Dhoni was left to plot a route to victory, wresting control from England's attack with 72 from 66 balls. He creates his own virtuous circle, creating a febrile atmosphere and then feeding off it, in turn causing a crowd of around 70,000 to roar with even greater intensity. He fell four balls from the end of the innings when he sliced Dernbach to Joe Root at deep cover - a suitable end because Dernbach's unwavering policy of bowling wide to him outside off stump had been England's most effective counter.
India approached the last 10 overs in unconvincing shape, at 177 for 5, having been confounded in the batting Powerplay by the variations of Dernbach and Steven Finn, which conceded only 21 runs in five overs and dismissed their batting mainstay, Suresh Raina, in the process.
Dhoni had failed to manage India's run chase in Rajkot, holing out at long-off against Dernbach's slower ball. He received a near-replica in the closing overs but this time his hands were fast and his brain quicksilver and he muscled it well beyond the boundary rope. It was a statement about how things would be different this time.
What Dhoni stirred, Jadeja delivered, rounding things off by taking 14 from Dernbach's last three deliveries to finish with an unbeaten 61 from 37 balls. They were impressive statistics for a batsman who had been overshadowed until the last. As for Dernbach, for all his relative success against Dhoni, he still spilled 73 from nine overs.
For Chris Woakes, who was playing his first ODI in India after his late inclusion for the injured Tim Bresnan, it was an examination far beyond anything he had ever experienced. He thought he had Dhoni caught at the wicket when he had made 6 from nine balls but it was impossible for the umpire Vineet Kulkarni to hear a nick in such a din and normal-speed TV replays, which were all that were shown, made things no clearer.
Raina had made 55 from 78 balls before he dragged on a pull at Finn and departed bashing the peak of his helmet with his bat in frustration, just as Virat Kohil had done earlier when he flayed Woakes to the cover boundary. Raina prospered primarily against the offspin of James Tredwell, two slog sweeps for six representing the highlight of his innings, and ensured that Tredwell, who took four wickets in the opening ODI in Rajkot, did not repeat the mayhem. As for England's bonus allrounder in the opening match, Joe Root, who bowled nine overs relatively unscathed, there was no encore.
India's opening pair did not survive long, Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane both departing by the fifth over. Finn and Dernbach, also impressive with the new ball, had clamoured for several lbw appeals before they prospered by hitting the stumps.
Dernbach's nip-backer to bowl Gambhir through the gate was a delivery made to order. There are few more productive, or less convincing, shots in ODIs than Gambhir's dab through gully for four, bat hanging away from his body and he had played it the previous ball much to the bowler's frustration. The ball that cut back was the classic retort. Finn also brought a delivery back in his next over, late inswing accounting for Rahane as he shuffled across his crease.
India's frustration grew when Yuvraj Singh fell to an erroneous lbw decision by Steve Davis, who did not see - and, like Kulkarni in the case of Dhoni, certainly could not hear in such a deafening atmosphere - a deflection off the glove as he swept at Tredwell. With no DRS in use, Yuvraj had to take his punishment, although he did not do so without a stray comment or two.
So, for that matter, did Alastair Cook in England's reply, with Bhuvneshwar fortunate to win an lbw decision with a delivery that pitched outside leg stump. Cook should have been run out on 17 when Jadeja failed to pick up cleanly at midwicket to take advantage of complete confusion between Pietersen and Cook over a leg-side single. Dhoni's annoyance was clear, but Bhuvneshwar's eighth over had an impact on the course of the match and the captain's mood.
First Pietersen (42 from 44 balls) was bowled by one that jagged back as he sought to run into the off side and two balls later Bhuvneshwar found movement away from the left-handed Morgan from a good length and Dhoni dived to claim one his finest catches against England this winter, in what has been a somewhat troubled wicketkeeping sequence.
England, four down for 74 by the 17th over, had much rebuilding to do. But the ball turned for India's spinners and it was jerry-built stuff. Craig Kieswetter and Joe Root assessed a while then both got out, Kieswetter unimpressively as he pushed a short ball from R Ashwin to midwicket, Root sliced apart by Jadeja's arm ball. Woakes' managed a second-ball duck - another Jadeja arm ball to enhance his excellent match -and England's tail quickly subsided, in no doubt about the extent of the challenge ahead.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo