It may be too early to panic but clearly life for England in white-ball cricket after Eoin Morgan is going to be anything but straight-forward.
Any chance of a smooth transition from probably the most influential England captain of them all was ended when India cruised home in the third one-day international here to add the 50-over series to the Twenty20 one already sealed in World Cup year.
There was no disgrace in England succumbing to a superb all-round display from Hardik Pandya, who took four wickets before adding 71 in a match-winning partnership with sublime century-maker Rishabh Pant that rescued India with the game and series in the balance.
Rishabh Pant scored a sensational hundred off 106 balls to lead India to victory this afternoon
Jos Buttler made a classy and important 60 with the bat but missed the chance to stump Pant
But Jos Buttler will be concerned England’s all-powerful batting line-up again under-performed and seems to have misplaced something of its aura in failing to reach 300 even once in a 50-over series for only the second time since their white-ball re-set in 2015.
Not least, the three big guns most responsible for transforming England’s Test cricket earlier this summer have all misfired on their return to the 50-over side – Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes failing to muster 50 runs each in their three innings and Joe Root, out for another duck, only scoring 11 runs in the series.
England could point to a grassy bowler’s paradise of a pitch in the first game at the Oval that saw them skittled for 110 and a two-paced surface in the second match at Lord’s that would have undone them again had Reece Topley not made home of cricket history.
But this hard, bouncy Old Trafford wicket really should have been full of runs, certainly more than the 259 all out in 45.5 overs England limped to in the face of an impressive bowling performance from an Indian side lacking the injured Jasprit Bumrah.
Craig Overton put in an important cameo at the end of England’s innings, scoring a fine 32
Hardik Pandya took four wickets in an impressive bowling display for India to restrict England
It was Bumrah’s replacement in Mohammed Siraj who struck two key blows in his first over, the second of the match, after India had again won the toss and bowled to negate England’s preference for the chase – Bairstow and Root both falling without scoring.
Siraj also struck new captain Buttler twice on the helmet in the same over attempting to pull as England struggled to come to terms with the extra pace both in the India attack and in this excellent surface.
At least Buttler provided something of the form that lit up this year’s IPL for the first time as England captain to make the first half-century for his side in the series. Sadly for him and England, Buttler’s 60 off 80 balls, with two sixes, was not nearly enough.
England had recovered reasonably well from that early double blow, with Jason Roy looking more like his old self after a wretched run of form in hitting three of the first four balls of the innings to the boundary and going on to 41 off 31 balls.
But the introduction of Pandya was decisive, first accounting for Roy and Stokes as England slipped from 66 for two after nine overs to 86 for four off 19 and then ensuring they would fall at least 30 runs short of par with a diet of almost exclusive short bowling.
In particular Pandya bowled every ball he delivered to Liam Livingstone short knowing the Lancashire batter would keep on going at him on his home ground.
Pandya went onto deliver with the bat too, scoring a quick-fire 71 from 55 balls with 10 fours
Pant and Pandya put on a match-winning 132 for the fifth wicket as England toiled
It was a policy that worked, too, in the 37th over when, after hitting Pandya into the building site that will soon become an extension of Old Trafford’s on-site hotel, Livingstone holed out to Ravindra Jadeja before Buttler did the same, falling to an excellent running catch, three balls later.
Topley had saved England by bowling them to victory at Lord’s on Thursday and it looked as though he would do the same here when he took three quick wickets, including the once prime scalp of Virat Kohli who has now gone 79 innings without a hundred.
But the key moment came when Buttler missed a sharp stumping off Moeen Ali to reprieve Pant when he was on just 18 of his eventual unbeaten 125, more than any England batter was able to compile in the whole series.
Former India captain Virat Kohli failed again with the bat, making just 17 at Old Trafford
How Pant made Buttler and England pay, adding 133 with Pandya before hurrying India home with 47 balls to spare, hitting David Willey for five fours in successive balls after reaching his first century in one-day international cricket.
So victory for India at the ground they abandoned on the morning of what was meant to be the final Test of last year’s series to prioritise the IPL.
They may have lost that re-arranged Test at Edgbaston at the start of this year’s trip but they have been by far the better side in white-ball cricket, now inflicting on England only their second home bi-lateral series 50-over defeat in six years.
England will barely have time to catch their breath before they take on South Africa in the first of three one-day internationals at Durham tomorrow. Suddenly it has become a big series for Buttler and new white-ball coach Matthew Mott.
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