Not even India's first 300-plus total in 14 attempts against England could prove sufficient to win their first international fixture of a desperately one-sided tour, as the 21-year-old Yorkshire batsman Jonny Bairstow marked his international debut with a nerveless display of power-hitting under the floodlights at Cardiff. Chasing a revised target of 241 in 34 overs after a sequence of Duckworth-Lewis readjustments, Bairstow battered an extraordinary 41 from 21 balls, as England eased home with 10 balls to spare.
In a breathless performance, Bairstow struck the fifth ball of his international career for six over midwicket, and added two more and a four for good measure, as England marched up the mountain to complete their third victory of the series and their eighth in ten international matches against India this summer.
The denouement stole the thunder from Virat Kohli's excellent 107 from 93, and also overshadowed the final ODI match of Rahul Dravid's 344-match career. He signed off with 69 from 79 balls, and a handshake from every England player, but as had been the case all summer, he was powerless to stop a team on the rampage.
Such a dramatic turn of events had seemed unlikely at the halfway mark of the day, which was reached amid similar pyrotechnics, as India's captain, MS Dhoni, slammed an even 50 from 26 balls to haul his team to an imposing total of 304 for 6. It was four runs more than they had managed in their final innings of the Test series, at The Oval back in August, and when two untimely rain-showers lopped 10 overs and only 34 runs off the chase, England's task appeared to have been made all the more awkward.
But they approached their task with confidence from the outset. In damp conditions, but on a still firm deck, Craig Kieswetter struck four fours in his first 12 balls to motor along to 21 from 17, before he was adjudged lbw a delivery that looked to be sliding past leg stump, while Alastair Cook provided the ballast once again, skitting along to 50 from 54 balls to set England up for their late push.
Another rain delay in the tenth over forced another D/L readjustment, but not before the newly-crowned ICC Cricketer of the Year, Jonathan Trott, had slammed Munaf Patel straight back down towards the River Taff for the first six of his ODI career. Cook reached his fifty in a frenetic over from Kohli, which included - in consecutive deliveries - a reverse lap for four, a terrible dropped catch at backward square from Dravid, and a mow across the line that led to Cook's middle stump being pegged back.
Trott might already have been caught at mid-off had Munaf not overstepped, and Munaf's evening got even worse when he slipped in the outfield and limped off with a twisted ankle. But Trott by now was getting into the mood, and with Ian Bell alongside him, he laid into the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja, who was smacked for 1, 6, 1, 6, 1, 6 in a single over that went for 21 and catapulted England ahead of the D/L requirement.
The two men fell in consecutive overs - Bell holed out to long-off against RP Singh, before Jadeja gained a measure of revenge by removing Trott who slapped to point - but Bairstow's arrival provided the carefree attitude that the situation required. At first, Ravi Bopara was unable to break the shackles to quite the same extent, but found his range as the target drew nearer, slogging RP Singh over deep fine leg for a top-edged six as he closed his series on 34 not out from 20 balls.
After winning the toss for the fifth match in a row, Cook's decision to bowl first was influenced by the prospect of showers and evening dew, but England struggled for breakthroughs at the outset. Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane added 52 for the first wicket, and though Steven Finn kept the Powerplays in check with an excellent first spell of seven overs for 22, England's fielding became notably ragged at key moments of the innings. Samit Patel dropped two bad catches, one at third man off Rahane to deny Finn a deserved early wicket, and England were once again indebted to the spin of Graeme Swann, who returned figures of 3 for 34 in nine overs to prevent the run-rate from getting completely out of hand.
It was Dravid and Kohli who turned on the style, slowly at first but with increasing poise as their partnership mounted. Jade Dernbach's sixth over was dispatched for 15 as Kohli's strong wrists and superb timing plundered his variations, before Patel was battered out of the attack with two fours over midwicket and a massive spring-loaded six over long-off. Though he slowed his tempo with his hundred in sight, he eventually turned Swann through square leg for a single to bring up his landmark from 87 deliveries, and was celebrating with jubilation before he had even completed the run.
One delivery later, Dravid's ODI career was brought to an end as Swann tweaked one through his gate and into the top of off stump, and when Kohli trod on his own stumps while working a single through square leg, England had prised themselves an opening that Dhoni - the eventual Man of the Series - did his utmost to slam shut. But India's defence was hampered by the absence of Praveen Kumar, who twisted his ankle while playing football in the warm-up, and without Munaf at the death, they simply had no answer to Bairstow's brilliant onslaught.