England have again fallen short of the standards necessary to win a one-day international series in India, this squad's undeniable improvements on recent visits ultimately undermined by Steven Finn's right knee.
They were struggling but still scrapping in this game, a fair effort given the significant advantage gained by MS Dhoni when he won his third consecutive toss, when Finn returned for India's second batting powerplay in the 36th over and with his first ball had Suresh Raina edging a drive to Alastair Cook at slip.
The dismissal of Raina, who had batted beautifully for 41, would have left India on 178 for five, needing to score at almost six runs per over for the remaining 15, with two new batsmen at the crease – briefly, Finn and Cook celebrated with the enthusiasm of men who sniffed a famous win to keep the series alive.
Then they spotted the burly figure of Steve Davis, the Australian umpire, waving his arms above the stumps to signify dead ball. Finn had broken those stumps with his trailing right leg, an unusual habit that he has been trying to cut out since it cost him the prize wicket of Graeme Smith at Headingley last summer.
Davis was also the umpire on that occasion, and he had already warned Finn for breaking the stumps three times before he called dead ball to reprieve Smith – who was on single figures at the time, and went on to make a half-century. Here, Raina capitalised clinically on his let-off, cruising to a high-class unbeaten 89 from 79 balls as India took a 3-1 lead in the five-match series with 15 balls to spare.
Cook complained to Davis that Finn had not received any warning, as at Headingley. But later, after consulting with the one-day coach Ashley Giles, he conceded Finn's repeat offending left England without a leg to stand on.
"There was a little bit of confusion," the captain explained. "Apparently we had been told that because he knocked them over twice in one of the previous games [the first of the series in Rajkot] he was a 'serial offender' and that [Davis] was going to [call dead ball] straight away.
"In the heat of the moment I think a few of us might have forgotten that. Apparently the umps were pretty clear, so I must have been deaf when I was listening to them. I know it's a tough job for the umpires but it's obviously frustrating when those little things don't go your way."
Cook could also have been talking of his own dismissal, as for the second time in this series he was given out lbw to a ball that clearly pitched outside leg stump. Remarkably, that is the fourth time in six one-day innings in India that he has been given out incorrectly, and on this occasion he had grafted to 76 and shared a skilful and restrained second-wicket stand of 95 in 22 overs with Kevin Pietersen after the early loss of Ian Bell to a poor shot.
However, he was still honest enough to concede that being on the wrong end of the odd decision "wasn't why we lost the game". England's initial response to the loss of their captain was poor, as Eoin Morgan and Samit Patel both fell cheaply to spin, Patel after failing to score off nine deliveries from Ravindra Jadeja's skiddy slow left arm.
From 142 for four after 37 overs, they did well to post even a competitive total, and that was largely down to Pietersen's battling 76 from 93 balls, and especially to a breezy unbeaten 57 off 45 from Joe Root, who combined orthodox and inventive shots so impressively that he has surely secured a place in the Champions Trophy squad next summer.
He was dropped twice, on 0 and 42, but Cook hinted afterwards that he could now be called into the squad for the ODI series in New Zealand next month, rather than leading the Lions to Australia.
Early wickets were imperative, and after taking the new ball ahead of Jade Dernbach – who again bowled poorly – and having Gautam Gambhir caught behind in his third over, Tim Bresnan could have had a second in his fourth. But Pietersen was unable to cling on to a high one-handed chance at mid-off that would have dismissed Rohit Sharma for 12, and left India 24 for two.
Sharma, who made his first appearance of the series in place of Ajinkya Rahane, punished England with a stylish 83 from 93 balls until he was the recipient of another poor lbw decision, this time awarded by Davis to Finn.
So England's luck was not completely out. India have simply remained a little too good for them in their own conditions to clinch a fourth consecutive home series win.
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