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Middle order Struggle for Indian team

Virat Kohli is animated. He sprints from his spot at backward point to mid off so he can converse with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Have a chat perhaps about the errant lines that one of his best limited-overs bowlers has begun with on his comeback from a stiff back injury. Kohli's also pushed his cover fielder to the fence and brought his third man up, in anticipation of more half-trackers.

Just two balls into Bhuvneshwar's second over, there's gesticulation from MS Dhoni. He's telling the bowler that there's too much width on offer outside the off-stump, and that he needs to bowl within. Bhuvneshwar overdoes it, and offers Jonny Bairstow a half-tracker on the leg stump.

By the time Bhuvneshwar angrily put his sweater on while walking away, he'd conceded 20 runs in his first two overs for only the second time in his ODI career. That for a man who has given away runs at 4.58 in the first powerplay since the 2015 World Cup. The anomaly came as the second over was smashed for four boundaries by England openers Jonny Bairstow and James Vince - which was as many as India got in the entirety of their first 10 overs.

For the first time on tour, clouds stayed on and didn't let the sun make an appearance even at half-past noon, in Leeds. That meant Mark Wood and David Willey, England's new-ball bowlers, would get some early swing. And there was appreciable seam movement too, that had the Indian openers on the mat.

The first over that Rohit Sharma played out, albeit unconvincingly for no runs, was a sign of things to come. Only on the rare occasion that the England pacers offered some room outside the offstump could the Indian openers capitalise. Rest of the time was spent trying hard in futility to keep the runs coming. England bowled 40 dot balls in the first 60, as India managed just 32 for 1 in that period.

If you broke down the next 30 overs - the all-important middle phase - into slots of five overs each, you'd notice that India couldn't quite rebuild with conviction. They kept the scoring rate in those slots around six-an-over, but lost a wicket each too. But at 156 for 3 in 30 overs, they still had the overs to complete a full recovery.

What followed just moments later instead was a journey in the opposite direction, thanks to the ball-of-the-series from Adil Rashid - a ripping leg spinner that beat Virat Kohli's bat and knocked back his off-stump. Kohli was left utterly bewildered - his reaction first captured on television camera and then hilariously circulated as out-of-context gifs on the brutal internet sphere.

Dhoni and Suresh Raina struggled together - just as they did in the second ODI in Lord's - and the scoring rate dipped considerably. England put in a further squeeze with wickets too, and the eventual score that India arrived at - 256 for 8 - was largely because of Shardul Thakur's cameo of a 13-ball 22, that also included the only two sixes of the innings.

"The tone was set by the bowlers. Wood and Willey were on the money, had their lines and lengths down. The ball swung a little for 4-5 overs. We took our opportunities well whenever we got the chance. We know the conditions here well, and we are happy we took advantage of that," Morgan said.

The beauty of England's absolute cruise in chase wasn't just down the fact that the conditions weren't as nice to the Indians as they were to the hosts. It was because all three Indian fast bowlers were repeatedly erratic at the start and England pounced on it.

Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali conceded just 96 runs between them in 20 overs, with the former picking up three wickets. Their performances gave the England batsmen a fair idea of the sort of impact that the Indian spinners could have in chase. Thus came an early sense of urgency.

The batsmen carried England to 78 for 2 by the end of the first powerplay - a score more than double of what India managed in that period. The chain reaction to that involved Kuldeep trying harder, by bowling quicker than he has in this series, to force a breakthrough. Yuzvendra Chahal controlled the run flow, but that was purely because Morgan and Root didn't need to try anything extravagant - no reverse sweeps, no flick shots against the turn to wiggle out of trouble and score briskly.

It helped England's case that Root had spent considerable time in the middle at Lord's and negated whatever India threw at him in the form of wrist spin. And the fact that Morgan spent two hours of nets on the eve of the match facing Sam Wisniawski - 16-year-old net bowler from Yorkshire who - surprise, surprise - is a left-arm wrist spinner. Wisniawki bowled just to Morgan, and was asked to mix it up - dishing out flatter deliveries at first and then flighting it up in the latter half of the session.

Throughout this period, Morgan kept playing on the front foot, and convincingly so. The young Wisniawski was not going to give Morgan the real feel of what it was to face Kuldeep, but it was still relevant training. Morgan faced 24 balls from the Indian wrist spinner on Tuesday (July 17), and hardly looked in trouble. The cushion of the flying start allowed England to make fewer runs than India did in the period between 11th and 20th over, while calmly negotiating Kuldeep's first four-over spell.

By this point, both batsmen had spent enough time and faced enough deliveries to be bracketed as 'settled'. Even as Kohli brought back Kuldeep earlier than before, the impact was minimal.

In the 35th over, there came a faint opportunity for an extremely late Indian comeback. Root should've been sent packing for 74 courtesy Dhoni's sharp glove work. Instead, a foot fault from Chahal made allowance for a second successive century, and a 'bat drop' to pull down the curtains on a fantastic series comeback for England.

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