England win by five wickets
Like a beautiful, glorious phoenix, England rose from the ashes of a couple of rubbish performances to win the toss and thus add a healthy dose of respectability to their series defeat.
As New Zealand battled it out with South Africa in that rarest of phenomena; an exciting ODI series, this contest hauled the excitement level back down to earth with a bump. Part of the problem is simple timing, as it’s difficult for any side to gain much momentum with five games spread over more than two weeks, but ultimately the main issue will forever be a lack of context to this sort of series. England had done the job they came to do and were without half their first choice side, meaning India barely had to try for any of the three games they won. Once Craig Kieswetter and Jade Dernbach had been consigned to the scapegoat scrapheap, the final spark of interest in the series died.
As for the demolition of Dharamsala itself; Tim Bresnan, presumably picked sarcastically a couple of days after being dropped from the next squad, bowled well to take a few wickets and India were restricted to a score well below par. When it comes to chasing less than 250, there isn’t a better side than England. Unfortunately, there isn’t a duller side either and it made for a soporific second half to the contest. At least Ian Bell managed to add some much needed class to proceedings by trudging his way to the only century of the series and, in doing so, keep the adoring masses just the right side of consciousness.
The biggest talking points, or at least the only points worthy of quiet mutterings under our collective breath, revolved around team selection. The aforementioned Bresnan playing ahead of Stuart Meaker was particularly bizarre – surely the Surrey man deserved at least one out of the five games. Not wanting to be left out, India also threw a selectoral curve ball by refusing to pick Chester Pujara once again. As a result their high-profile axing of Virender Sehwag in favour of the Rajkot runplunderer has been propelled high up the ‘most pointless decisions’ league table. The least the vast swathes of onlookers expect from dead rubber ODI games is a few unknown players mixed with selections clearly made under the influence of a couple of pints of gin. The most obvious example being the post-Ashes clashes in 2011, as without the against all odds return of Liam Plunkett those sixth and seventh games would’ve been completely meaningless.
From here England head straight to New Zealand, having shed a couple of tonnes of tattoo maintainence supplies from their load, while India get ready to host Australia and their rotating roadshow. Neither side is any better equipped for those epic challenges thanks to this series.