Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow decimate India to level series.

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow decimate India to level series.
England 337 for 4 (Bairstow 124, Stokes 99, Roy 55, Krishna 2-58) beat India 336 for 6 (Rahul 108, Pant 77, Topley 2-50) by six wickets

Despite suffering a collapse of 10 for 116 to bungle a chase of 318 in the first ODI, England captain Eoin Morgan insisted that there was no reason for the world champions to veer away from the turbo-charged approach that has served them well. Three days later, Morgan wasn’t available for the second match – he has been ruled out of the third too with a hand injury – but Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow epitomised that approach to help England mow down a bigger target of 337 with almost 40 balls to spare. Jason Roy also did his thing at the top, as England reduced KL Rahul’s more sedate century in the first half to a footnote.

Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya had exploded in the end overs for India, but overall they couldn’t match up to England’s sustained aggression. While India hit 34 boundaries in their entire innings, England ticked past that mark in the 34th over of the chase. By then the asking rate had plummeted to less than five an over. India’s left-arm spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya bore the brunt of the Stokes-Bairstow assault, conceding 0 for 156 runs between them in 16 overs.

Stokes, Bairstow and Jos Buttler all fell in a space of eight balls, but debutant Liam Livingstone and Dawid Malan, who was playing his second ODI, completed England’s drubbing of India to set up a decider on Sunday.

It was Roy who made the early running for England, tucking into Prasidh Krishna’s short balls and swatting him for a triptych of pulled fours in the sixth over. Roy followed it with back-to-back fours off Bhuvneshwar Kumar; by the end of the powerplay he claimed 39 of the 59 runs England had scored. He notched up his first half-century of the tour when he hauled a Yadav wrong’un over long-on for six.

Bairstow, becalmed in the early exchanges, sailed to his own fifty with a flurry of boundaries. He forged his 13th century partnership with Roy – which is now the most by any English pair. It needed a moment of brilliance from Rohit Sharma in the field to separate the duo. He swooped down to his right from midwicket to capitalise on a mix-up and run Roy out for 55 off 52 balls.

Enter Stokes. He was a bit of a non-starter in the first ODI (1 off 11 balls). He had started in skittish fashion in the second, too, padding up to a wrong’un from Yadav, although it wasn’t threatening the stumps. Krunal then drew an outside edge from Stokes, but there wasn’t anyone at slip to snaffle that. All of this was a red herring, with Stokes revving up to smash 84 off a combined 33 balls from Yadav and Krunal, including ten sixes. Only Morgan and stand-in captain Buttler have struck more sixes for England in an ODI innings.

After Stokes got to his fifty off 40 balls, he went 6,6,6,1,6,4,2,6,6,2,4, but fell just short of a hundred, with Kumar having him caught behind down the leg side. Bairstow, however, had brought up his hundred in the same manner as he had raised his fifty: with a towering six off Yadav.

After India were inserted again, Rahul had made a contrasting hundred, getting 68 of his 108 runs through singles and doubles. He cautiously navigated the spinners and it was only after passing fifty that he hit over the top. Likewise, Virat Kohli accumulated in risk-free fashion after the hosts had dawdled to 41 for the loss of openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in the powerplay. On Tuesday, India had two fewer runs in that period for the loss of no wickets, but such a cagey start hadn’t hurt them then. It did come back to bite them on Friday despite a 28-ball half-century from Pant and a 16-ball 35 from Hardik.

Reece Topley, who was playing only his second ODI since 2016, was particularly impressive with the new ball, often landing it on the seam and gleaning substantial movement and bounce off the pitch. After hitting an awkward in-between length against Dhawan, he pushed one across him from a fuller length to have him nicking off for 4 off 17 balls. Rohit, who had got out chasing what might have been an off-wide wide from Stokes in the first match, tickled a leg-stump half-volley from Sam Curran straight to short fine leg in the second.

Moeen Ali, who has had a rough winter, put in a fine shift, returning 0 for 47 in his 10 overs. He gave up only one boundary in his spell, but that was down to a fumble from Stokes at extra-cover. As for Adil Rashid, he cut short Kohli’s innings at 66, besting him for the ninth time in international cricket. Rashid could have got him much earlier – when Kohli was on 35 – had Buttler not closed his gloves too early. The keeper’s error meant 31 more runs for Kohli, and the subsequent correction brought Pant to the crease. The left-hander closed out Rashid’s spell with a powerful slog-swept six over midwicket.

Pant soon went on a six-hitting spree, but the lack of urgency from the top four and England’s own six-hitting spree meant it was in vain.

read more: India vs Oman, international friendly live updates: India hold Oman after strong second half show