<
>

Root, Morgan trump spin in England's series win

England 260 for 2 (Root 100*, Morgan 88*) beat India 256 for 8 (Kohli 71, Dhawan 44, Willey 3-40, Rashid 3-49) by eight wickets

On a pitch most suited to their spinners, India's batsmen and fast bowlers somehow contrived to leave all the eggs in their spinners' basket, but under the pressure of expectation when defending a small total, they failed to prevent the end of India's nine-series winning streak in bilateral ODIs. On a dry, almost Asia-like track in Leeds, England could be proud of themselves for outperforming India's spinners, considered the best in the world, and also batting better against spin than a line-up that has grown up facing some of the best spinners in the world. Powered by Joe Root's second successive hundred, they finished the chase of 257 off in 44.3 overs.

Adil Rashid, who suffered in comparison to Kuldeep Yadav two matches ago, began England's turnaround by bowling an imperious-looking Virat Kohli past his outside edge after pitching on leg stump. India were looking good for 300 during the partnership between Kohli and Dinesh Karthik, but Rashid took out both of them to start a turnaround in which India got only 100 runs in the last 20 overs. The fast bowlers - playing, according to Kohli, because they hadn't yet got a game in the series - got off to an ordinary start, conceding 14 risk-free boundaries in the first nine overs.

India's spinners had a big ask now. They were under pressure of conjuring up a win, especially on a day when the opposition spinners had pushed India into a corner. A wicket first ball would have raised India's hopes. The wicket came through a diving collection and run-out by MS Dhoni, who had been central to India's slowdown. Just when India lost Kohli for 71, Dhoni was beginning to get stuck. Once Kohli and Suresh Raina fell, there was no way Dhoni was going to take any risks. Dot balls rose, there were a few boos around again, but Dhoni played on regardless.

Unlike at Lord's, you could see what Dhoni was trying to do here. He had seen a turning pitch, he knew the tail was long, and he went on to make sure India got 250-260 as opposed to risking getting bowled out for 230 in an effort to get 280. As it turned out, Dhoni couldn't even see India through to the end of the innings, and it was left to Shardul Thakur to hit India's first six in 638 balls this series and take India past 250 with a 13-ball 22.

Dhoni is seldom out, though, and now, having conjured this run-out to send back James Vince, was the time he could help his spinners control the game. Except that India had Root to deal with. In a team full of bludgeon brothers, Root carries the responsibility of anchoring innings when the going is tough. Once again, it was left to Root to take England through this tricky spell of spin.

Two matches ago, Root had faced three balls of left-arm wristspin in all international and T20 cricket for two dismissals, but he showed England the way out with a hundred at Lord's. He did the same here. The most effective shot he has played in both the matches is the extra-cover drive, against the turn, almost every time Kuldeep has overpitched. That shot has brought him short balls and a negative line on the pads. Unless the ball was overpitched, Root chose to stay deep in the crease, playing the ball late, often guiding the spinners past the slip.

In Root's company, captain Eoin Morgan also flourished, taking apart Suresh Raina after nine overs of frontline spin had not brought India a wicket. The two went on to become England's most prolific partnership during the course of the chase. Root scored 15 of the last 22 runs - four others were wides - to end with the century that took him to most centuries for England, past Marcus Trescothick's 12. He ended with a boundary and a bat drop reminiscent of Grant Elliott's. A statistic that will matter much more is that Root now had 68 runs off 68 deliveries after having been dismissed twice in the first three from the left-arm wristspinner.

The other number that mattered was a third successive dismissal against spin for Kohli. The last two dismissals have been comprehensive, lbw past the inside edge off Moeen at Lord's, and bowled by Rashid at Headingley. Until then, he had looked destined to score another century in another series-decider. This was an innings that helped India recover from the early dismissal of Rohit Sharma against moving ball. Shikhar Dhawan again ran himself out after a good start.

Dinesh Karthik, playing ahead of KL Rahul, and Kohli then added 41 in 40 balls, but that is when Rashid turned things around. An over after almost getting Karthik to play on - early into an expansive drive - Rashid succeeded in doing the same in the 25th over. In the 31st, Rashid produced the ball of the series, leaving Kohli stunned, as if he had seen a ghost. The demons, as it turned out, had just begun to show up for India.