England can have had no complaints with the two pitches so far produced in their ODI series in India. They are not turning much, they are not particularly slow, and they are the kind of tracks on which a batting-heavy side like theirs can score easily. The flip side is that scoring is easy for both teams, leading to high-scoring matches that aren't over until the last over.
England, however, have managed something that has been beyond India - getting early wickets on two flat pitches. While David Willey removed the openers with his swing in the first match, Chris Woakes - who stifled India's top order in both matches - removed KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli single-handedly on Thursday. If 63 for 4 was not enough to win the match while defending 350, he made it 25 for 3 this time. His penetrative spell with pin-point accurate bowling finished a first spell of 5-3-14-3.
And yet England squandered such strong positions in both matches and conceded the series after coming close in a spirited run-chase. Their captain Eoin Morgan, who steered them almost all the way to their target of 382, admitted they had paid the price for allowing India to regroup in spite of all that early pressure.
"We weren't at our best again with the ball," he said. "We took early wickets, which is a really good sign, but letting two experienced guys get themselves in like that... and we struggled to break the partnership throughout, probably due to just not executing our plans well enough.
"We didn't produce our best performance - or anywhere near our best performance - with the ball, in this game and the last, which is very disappointing. Chasing 382, we had an incredible amount of belief in the changing room, we believed that we could chase it down, and again we weren't far off. I didn't think we batted [as] well [as we can]."
"When you don't execute your plans, you're obviously backtracking a bit and chasing a tail, and just trying different things. If a bowler doesn't get it right on the day, which can happen all the time, you try different things. When you're trying different things against the two guys who are in, they can really hurt and today they did."
The two batsmen who hurt England - Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni - cashed in as soon as the England bowlers faltered, once the opening bowlers ended their first spells. Ben Stokes offered too much room to Yuvraj, Jake Ball didn't bowl the right lines, while Liam Plunkett encountered Dhoni at his most unstoppable in the 48th over and was smashed for three sixes in the over. The platform laid by Woakes' spell was effectively nullified by his team-mates in the middle overs.
That both games came close is a tribute to the batting displays of both sides; 1453 runs have been scored so far in four innings for the loss of 28 wickets. If England's bowling was unable to build on the momentum established by the openers, their batting could not finish things off after the stage had been set. It was the skill level of the two teams in these conditions that made the difference.
"It's different from what we are used to," Morgan said. "The grounds have been very similar, very small, very batting-friendly which continues to be the case for white-ball cricket. It's almost the case of who bats the best wins. And we haven't produced our best with the bat. We've pushed them close twice, there are positives signs within themselves, but we've lost the series.
"It's with our skill level. The belief is there, the character is there, the talent is there - it's reproducing your skill level. As I mentioned, India are a tough side to beat at home. You need to have skill level. The guys playing the IPL, I believe, will set them up.
"Within their side there are a few World Cup winners who were a part of the 2011 side and, of course, having that experience and coming up against these sides in world competitions is a big test for us. You've got to produce close to the best to beat them when they're at their best and we haven't managed to do that.
"We have another chance to do that in Calcutta. Although the series is gone, looking further ahead, it's going to be a good test for us to prepare for the Champions Trophy. The wickets are not turning square, it's not the typical India, it's actually modern-day 50-over cricket. Finding a way to deal with that is a challenge."
Morgan fought valiantly with the lower order and the tail, compiling his eighth ODI century with a plan executed almost to perfection, especially once spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had finished their quotas by the 40th over. Morgan saw them through carefully, he didn't even score at run a ball against them because he knew he could try and make up for that against the quick bowlers. He unleashed his full repertoire against Hardik Pandya's erratic lines and the odd loose delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He barely celebrated his hundred in the penultimate over because England still needed 29 runs off 11 balls. And he didn't get to celebrate later at all.
"A pretty disappointing day," he said. "Anytime you get runs, more often than not, you're in the team, you perform, the side wins. But when you lose, there is absolutely no satisfaction."
Morgan's partnership with Moeen Ali took them close to satisfaction. Morgan played second fiddle to his partner in their counter-attacking 12-over stand that instilled life in their chase again, as Moeen targeted the leg-side boundary repeatedly. But a big swing against Bhuvneshwar left Moeen's stumps rattled . It was, admitted Morgan, a big turning point.
"Joe [Root] and Jason [Roy], when they got going, obviously losing the two of them hurt us a bit. And then when myself and Mo got going, losing Mo. It's more a case of breaking partnerships as opposed to losing one wicket in particular [that turns the match]."
If the Kolkata pitch also offers plenty of runs on Sunday, Morgan can only hope his bowlers put up a better show, so that his batsmen's best statistical efforts don't contribute to yet another lost cause.