Improved England narrowed the margin of defeat to five wickets in the third one-day international but lost the series as India chased almost 300 at the Punjabi CA Stadium last night.
Ajinkya Rahane (91) outdid the sheet-anchor tempo of Jonathan Trott (98no) and, despite an England fightback, their adversary-in-chief Mahendra Singh Doni scrambled his team home with four balls to spare in pursuit of 298-4.
The best efforts of Samit Patel (70no) and Kevin Pietersen (64) – in century stands with Trott – therefore proved in vain as India took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
England failed to contain the scoring options of Rahane and Gautam Gambhir (58), with Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan and Jade Dernbach in particular leaking runs, and Alastair Cook’s team must therefore ponder how they can regroup and avoid a 5-0 whitewash in the two remaining matches.
They knew all along they faced a significant challenge to consolidate the home gains of their 3-0 NatWest Series success against India just last month.
But England were nonetheless optimistic about a task which proved just beyond them here, and much more so previously in Hyderabad and Delhi.
Trott’s 116-ball innings began after Cook’s early departure, playing the foil first to Craig Kieswetter and then Pietersen, Ravi Bopara and finally Patel.
From No 6, Patel raced past a maiden 50 and, in just 43 balls, hit seven fours and two sixes, including a maximum from the final delivery of the innings to complete an unbroken stand of 103 in less than 12 overs.
The question nonetheless was whether Trott’s strike rate of 84 had served his team well enough for the victory they needed, and after Bresnan and first-change Dernbach set up India’s chase with poor lines, even some much better bowling from Steven Finn could not save the day.
After Cook had chosen to bat first, both Praveen and R Vinay Kumar found movement in the air and off the pitch.
It was the latter that did for the England captain, lbw pushing forward to Vinay and unable to cover the nip back into his front pad.
Kieswetter and Trott shared a watchful, and occasionally fitful stand, which contained just a smattering of shots in anger during the initial powerplay.
Kieswetter counted two of England’s four sixes, one trademark club over midwicket off Praveen and a thick outside edge over a vacant third-man at the other end.
But with the 50 partnership in sight, the opener made a mis-judgment against Virat Kohli’s gentle inswing and toe-ended a yorker on to his leg-stump.
Pietersen appeared in control from the outset, and put the pace to England’s innings.
His only significant blemish was his part in a mix-up which should have seen Trott run out for 32, had India not made a hash of retrieving the ball from short mid-wicket.
Pietersen, whose half-century was his first in nine ODI innings and astoundingly only his third in 33, looked all set to convert to three figures.
But he paid dearly for missing an arm ball from Ravindra Jadeja, Sudhir Asnani giving him out lbw despite a monster stride out of his crease.
Bopara and especially Patel both played well around Trott. But there were still only 27 runs for the loss of Bopara, the second to inside-edge a yorker on to his stumps, in the batting powerplay before Patel’s brutal hitting ensured 91 in the last 10 overs.
It seemed England might have given themselves an even chance of keeping the series alive.
But Rahane and Pathiv Patel steered the reply to 79-0 until Bresnan, back for a second spell in powerplay, had the left-hander lbw with a delivery which might have pitched outside leg.
It was England’s first wicket in 46 overs, stretching back to Bresnan’s success against Rahane in Delhi four days ago.
They had conceded 288 runs in that time, and faced another significant wait before they would strike again as Rahane and Gambhir put on 111 in 24 overs.
Gambhir gave a half-chance on 17, a thin edge on an attempted drive at Patel slipping through Kieswetter’s left glove. With the game already apparently lurching irrevocably India’s way, Pietersen leapt to hold a very good catch at cover as Gambhir mistimed an attempted big hit at the deserving Finn.
England’s fastest bowler doubled up with the wicket of Rahane too, caught by a tumbling Cook at mid-off to end his 104-ball contribution.
Kieswetter had already dropped a looping chance off Kohli’s mis-hook at Dernbach on only four. Graeme Swann turned one sharply to have the in-form No 4 lbw 31 runs later, and Suresh Raina holed out for nought in powerplay.
But Dhoni and Jadeja hauled India over the line in an unbroken stand of 65, Kieswetter capping an untidy display by missing an obvious chance to run out the left-hander in the penultimate over.