New Delhi: A series of double-strikes at vital junctures in England's innings helped India limit the visitors to a below-par total in good batting conditions at the Feroz Shah Kotla and secure a 2-0 lead in the five-ODI series. The first occurred at the beginning of the innings, the second at the halfway stage and the third at the start of the slog. They forced England to revert to a watchful approach, when they had been well placed to surge, leaving India's batsmen with a modest chase on a fast outfield with small boundaries.
Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir made short work of it. After surviving a fiery new-ball spell from Steven Finn and helping India build after the early loss of the openers, both batsmen settled down to score with a fluency that had been visible only in patches in England's innings. Their 209-run partnership, during which Kohli raced to a century and Gambhir made a half-century, helped achieve the target of 238 with eight wickets in hand and 13.2 overs to spare.
The ease with which India chased on a dewy evening put their bowlers' effort, and that of Vinay Kumar who took a career-best 4 for 30, in perspective. India inflicted the first double-strike within the first two overs. Alastair Cook hoped to make best use of a pitch he felt would get slower as the match progressed but his duck was a setback to those plans. The fourth ball off the match, from Praveen Kumar, was short and wide and Cook cut it straight to Ravindra Jadeja at point. While Praveen was fortunate to strike with an ordinary delivery, Vinay Kumar produced a sharper ball in the second over to dismiss Craig Kieswetter - it bounced and seamed away from the right-hand batsman and took the outside edge of the tentative prod to a wide first slip.
The second brace of wickets occurred in the 25th and 26th overs. Bopara didn't pick a straighter one from R Ashwin and was lbw and Kevin Pietersen, who had found his fluency after a slow start, drove at and edged a wide ball from Umesh Yadav to give MS Dhoni a low catch.
Despite being reduced to 0 for 2 and 121 for 5, though, England hit boundaries regularly and had partnerships that helped them recover. What they didn't do well was take singles and twos - there were 172 dot balls in the innings. India would have only 108 dot balls in theirs. The first partnership, between Bopara and Pietersen, was worth 73, and the second, between Jonny Bairstow and Samit Patel, 86. All of those batsmen, in addition to Jonathan Trott, began to create problems for India but no one stayed long enough to cause significant damage.
Bairstow and Patel had led England to 207 in the 42nd over, when they also fell in successive overs - the third and decisive double-strike. Patel got a skiddy delivery from Yadav that kept low and struck him plumb in front, while Bairstow was caught on the long-off boundary. He had hit Jadeja hard and far but Kohli took the catch at head height just inside play. England had slumped to 211 for 7 and this time there was no recovery. The tail, which had caused India so many problems in England, did not contribute.
After 8.2 overs of the chase India were 35 for 2. England had been exactly the same in their innings. Tim Bresnan had dismissed Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane, but he wasn't England's most dangerous bowler. Finn was.
Finn clocked speeds of 150 kph and above consistently in his first spell. He beat Kohli with sheer pace after inducing an edge that went past slip for four. In the 10th over, Gambhir edged Finn past his stumps to the fine-leg boundary while attempting a cover drive. With three slips in place there was a huge gap between cover point and mid-off and Gambhir was aiming for it. He tried to steer once again, and Finn watched the outside edge fly wide of third slip once more. There was a third boundary in the over - Gambhir clipped a half-volley off his pads through square leg. Finn's frustration began to show and India began to pull away fast.
The other England bowlers caused no problems. Kohli pulled Jade Dernbach with a trace of arrogant dismissiveness, he drove Ravi Bopara with grace through cover, and Gambhir cut Graeme Swann behind point to bring up the 50-partnership off 42 balls.
Kohli reached his half-century off 45 balls, Gambhir got to his off 62. Both batsmen were level on 58 after 25 overs but thereafter Kohli began to race ahead with frequent boundaries and a constant turning over of the strike. He got to his century off only 89 balls with a deft glance off the pads against Jade Dernbach. He celebrated his seventh ODI hundred with a fist-pump. A few overs later, Kohli was fist-pumping again, after smashing Dernbach through midwicket to finish the game.