On Tuesday morning, Vikram Mann, 17, and Ameya, 15, were waiting anxiously for bus No.1 at Calthorpe Road, which would take them to Edgbaston, a short hop away. The potential series decider between England and India was starting in 20 minutes and they didn’t want to miss out on a single delivery, even though it was evident that India were to bat second after MS Dhoni won the toss.
Vikram, an Ajinkya Rahane fan, and Ameya, an out-and-out Dhoni supporter, were not even born — perhaps their parents themselves were teenagers — when India last trumped England in a bilateral series in this country 24 years ago. The need to be part of this history perhaps explained their urgency — and, by extrapolation, of thousands of others expats who hurried to this impressively large venue.
In the event, the stadium emptied out 20 overs before their expectations, but the blockbuster Indian-origin crowd got more than their money’s worth. MS Dhoni and his men gave England a nine-wicket hiding in the fourth One-Day International to take a 3-0 series winning lead. Fittingly, it came at the very venue of their last major triumph, the 2013 Champions Trophy.
The 50-over series triumph may not — and should not — paper over the cracks that India showed in the five-day format earlier in the summer. But it ought to give the team — and its supporters — much-needed belief as they begin the ground work for the World Cup defence early next year.
On Tuesday, they checked two crucial boxes that were there for the ticking. The struggling Shikhar Dhawan found form with an unbeaten 97, and perhaps more importantly Ajinkya Rahane, the ODI batsman, finally came of age with a maiden century.
Before Wednesday, Rahane had an unspectacular average of 26.25 in 32 ODIs and only six fifties. For a player of his technique, it was embarrassing. Dhawan, meanwhile, hadn’t made a fifty away from the subcontinent since his century against Zimbabwe last year.
It helped both their cause that their pace colleagues — Bhuvneshwar Kumar (8-3-14-2) and Mohammed Shami (7.3-1-28-3) bowled exceedingly well on a brown but helpful track to restrict England to a paltry 206 in 49.3 overs. But the total, however small, still had to be chased, and England had in their pace-bowling line-up the consistent Chris Woakes, the tall Steven Finn, a surprise weapon in Harry Gurney and, yes, James Anderson. Just to cover all bases, England had also picked Moeen Ali, the off-spinner who earned the epithet of Moeenalitharan for his exploits against India in the Test series.
On a pitch where Kumar was well nigh unplayable in the morning, you would have normally expected Anderson, the finest bowler in continued…