India have beaten England by four wickets at Chennai to take a two-one lead in the six-match series. Although India were ultimately made to work for their win, England's total of 217 on a pitch that was good for batting never really looked adequate. India eventually reached the target with three overs to spare.
With Anil Kumble captaining India for the first time in the absence of the injured Sourav Ganguly, Nasser Hussain won the toss and chose to bat. Marcus Trescothick immediately showed early signs of his current form with boundaries off both Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar. But Nick Knight perished in the seventh over, playing an ungainly heave at a slower ball from Srinath to be caught by Dinesh Mongia at mid-wicket. Trescothick, after promising something magical, tried to guide a short ball from Agarkar down to third man and gloved it to Ajay Ratra behind the stumps.
The introduction of Sanjay Bangar spelt more trouble for England, as Hussain tried to pull a ball which wasn't short enough for the shot. The result was a straightforward catch for Harbhajan Singh at mid-on, and England's rollercoaster was lurching dangerously. Paul Collingwood and Michael Vaughan initially proceeded with due caution, but after striking Bangar for two boundaries in an over, Collingwood was undone by Harbhajan, who found the edge with a ball that held its own and was caught at slip by VVS Laxman via Ratra's gloves.
Andrew Flintoff hoisted England's hundred in the 20th over with a well-timed boundary to long-off, but perished driving in the same over, returning a simple catch to Kumble. Joined by Ben Hollioake, Vaughan collected four more off Harbhajan with another trademark off-drive before cutting Kumble with the same result. However Kumble took the key wicket in his next over, when Vaughan tried and failed to pull out of a cut for Sachin Tendulkar to take a fine, sprawling catch at backward point.
Hollioake gave England something to cheer about with a magnificent six wide of mid-on off Kumble. Jeremy Snape took a much-needed boundary down the ground as Srinath overpitched, and the two exchanged ones and twos, posting the 50 partnership in the 39th over. Snape's valuable contribution came to an end when, having cut Agarkar to the third man boundary, he heaved across the line to lose his middle stump. Snape had made 38 and added 70 with Hollioake, who went on to bring up up England's 200 in the 45th over.
Hollioake's commendable effort came to an untimely end when he pulled cross-batted at Agarkar to be caught off the leading edge by Kumble at extra cover. Darren Gough lost his middle and off stumps heaving at Agarkar, and the England innings ended two overs short of the 50-over mark with a needless run out as Matthew Hoggard attempted an unlikely second.
With India requiring 218 for victory on a blameless pitch, Tendulkar's start against Gough and Hoggard was explosive, with an array of pulled boundaries. When Gough overpitched, Tendulkar drove him high over Hussain at cover for another. As he pitched up, the Indian superstar whipped him to the mid-wicket boundary to leave Gough glazed with admiration. Virender Sehwag joined the party with two off-side boundaries as 17 runs came off Gough's third over.
Flintoff applied the brakes as he replaced Gough, but Sehwag had a let-off when he cut Hoggard and Snape, after parrying a difficult catch at backward point, couldn't quite hold on to the rebound. Flintoff continued to keep India in check, although Sehwag cut a timely boundary off Hoggard, and then watched Tendulkar play two almost identical strokes in the Yorkshireman's next over before lifting a slower ball, one-handed, over midwicket for four more. Tendulkar's 50 came up off 44 balls in the 14th over.
The hundred came up in Hollioake's second over (the 18th of the innings) as Sehwag pulled another boundary and India posted their best partnership of the series. Sehwag's fifty quickly followed as he pulled Snape through mid-wicket, but he holed out to Trescothick playing a similar stroke next ball.
Laxman joined Tendulkar to keep the scoreboard ticking until the little master finally succumbed, plumb lbw to Snape hitting across the line at a straight ball. But although England stuck to their task well in hot, humid conditions, Mongia and Laxman kept the scoreboard ticking with no real need to hurry.
Laxman, having just driven Flintoff delightfully through extra cover, played over a slower ball from Hoggard and lost his off stump. Mongia responded with a huge six over mid-wicket, but immediately got an outside edge driving which was safely pouched by Foster. When Bangar edged Hoggard to Trescothick at first slip, England were nurturing faint hopes of an unlikely victory.
After a lengthy delay while the ball was changed, Hemang Badani was missed as Foster couldn't quite scoop up an edge as he dived to his left. A misfield by substitute Owais Shah allowed four to third man off Hoggard. Gough came back only to be driven to the long-off boundary by Ratra.
With just 16 runs needed for victory, Badani was caught at the wicket by Foster after Gough's slower ball had flicked his glove. With Hollioake off the field with an upset stomach, Hussain had to call on Collingwood and Vaughan to bowl the closing overs as Ratra and Agarkar saw India home.