India’s narrow win in the third ODI against England on Sunday completed their victory across all three formats on the tour.
Eoin Morgan’s side ran them close in both white-ball contests, Sam Curran just eight runs away from pulling off a remarkable heist in the third and final game.
With much to ponder for both sides ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year, Phil Smith runs you through a sequence of broadly connected thoughts he had while watching the series unfold….
1. This was a glimpse into the future of the game
After England's collapse in the first ODI, there were some questions (from the outside at least) as to whether they would have been better served taking the tempo down a notch following Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow's opening partnership.
Bairstow's heroics in the second contest, alongside a quite extraordinary 12-ball sequence from Ben Stokes, provided a fairly emphatic riposte. Most telling, though, was the response that came from India.
The first two games presented an interesting battle between two competing views of ODI cricket. India started sedately, building towards the final ten overs in which all caution was abandoned. An old-school approach, but one that has generally served them well. Their consistency in posting 300+ scores is impressive and with the depth and variety of their bowling attack, it tends to be more than adequate.
In the third ODI, though, there was a subtle shift. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan's opening stand of over 100 came at better than a run a ball, and there was a marked shift in the intent of the opening pair. When wickets began to fall in the middle overs, India didn't sit in but continued to accelerate. Part of this was in recognition of England's capacity to chase dizzying totals, and perhaps part of it is down to the new age of IPL star pushing for contention.
The consistency of Sharma, Dhawan and KL Rahul continues to marvel but the T20 series showed that in players like Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, run scoring is only heading in one direction and it is up to the traditional heavyweights to adapt.
What it underlined is that Eoin Morgan is absolutely right not just in his assessment of where cricket is now, but where it is heading in the future. In doubling down on their approach and expanding the player pool further, this series was largely a success for England even if the end result was a disappointment.
2. Livingstone the next cab off the rank
Livingstone's two contributions in this series may look modest on the scorecard but they underlined his importance to England's future in white-ball cricket.
In the second ODI there remained the brief prospect of an almighty collapse as he came to the crease, to which his response was to come off the ropes and throw a few more punches of his own. It was a vintage Morgan-era response to adversity.
Shardul Thakur's seemingly deadly full tosses did for him in the next contest but that was another cameo full of intent and power. Livingstone is undoubtedly here to stay.
Spare a thought for Sam Billings, though. A talented and versatile player, his shoulder injury in the first game was cruelly timed for a player who had been waiting for a chance to impress.
3. Bhuvi is back and we are all better for it
Cricket continues to push its own boundaries and this series was all the better for it. In the end, though, arguably the most impactful performer was an old-school seam bowler unerring in his accuracy and length.
Bhuvneshwar Khumar has all the variations, for sure, but what sets him ever so slightly apart is his ability to mix it with traditional new-ball bowling.
India are well stocked in this department; Deepak Chahar performs a similar role for Chennai Super Kings and the reserves of fast bowling have perhaps never been greater.
Bhuvi, though, remains king.
Injuries have curtailed his progress in recent times but ahead of a five-test series in England, it is a genuine thrill to see him back at the top of his game. You could feel the tremor when Bhuvi returned to the attack as Sam Curran and Mark Wood neared India’s total in the third ODI.
He almost finished it off, too, simply hitting his length with speed and precision. Too good for Wood, and most others to boot.
4. Jonny Bairstow is becoming a white-ball great for England
His partnership with Jason Roy is becoming one that you simply cannot afford to miss.
Their consistency is breathtaking and it’s to Bairstow’s credit that he is taking that into the T20 format even as he continues to be shuffled around the order.
Wherever he bats in the World Cup later this year, he is becoming a banker and that versatility is a big bonus for Morgan.
5. The Joe Root conundrum
Root’s reputation as one of the best 50-over cricketers in the world was done no harm by his absence here.
That unique combination of quick and chanceless scoring was missed at number three in two of the chases of this series, and underlined his long-term importance in that position ahead of the next World Cup.
The interesting question is to what extent he is on England’s radar for the same position in the T20 World Cup later this year.
His T20 record remains formidable even if he rarely plays the format, and he is one of the best his country has ever produced when it comes to playing spin.
In a high-pressure game it’s hard to argue that England would not be better off with him in the side.
At the heart of this debate is making sense of what conditions will be like in India later this year. Will they be the kind of turning, low-scoring pitches that we saw in the test series? Or the flat, batter-friendly surfaces of the ODI’s?
In the case of the former, England needs Root. If it’s the latter, it might be time for the long levers of Ben Stokes to climb up the order.
6. It’s a big IPL for Dawid Malan
The upcoming tournament will be key for a number of England fringe players looking to cement their place in that T20 squad and arguably no one has a bigger opportunity than Malan.
This was another white-ball series in which his contributions were strong.
There was an excellent knock in the third T20 game, and a well made, if ultimately frustrating, 50 in the third ODI.
The scrutiny on his place at number three in the T20 side is harsh in the extreme when you consider his record at both domestic and international level, but it’s also a reflection of the options England have at their disposal.
Malan faces a battle to get into a Punjab Kings side featuring Rahul and the mightily exciting Nicolas Pooran, but if he forces his way in there is a great opportunity to settle the debate over his abilities once and for all.
It’s going to be an interesting few months for Malan. He is experienced, excellent off the back foot, understands his game well and seems totally unflustered by the noise that surrounds the England team.As well as the T20 World Cup, there is surely a debate to be had about a potential Ashes slot.
7. Have England ever produced a more likeable bowling attack?
The one-handed assists in the deep from Chris Jordan.
Adil Rashid’s googlies and his best mate turning it through Virat Kohli’s gate at the other end.
Jofra’s pace, and Mark Wood’s all-action style.
Throw in Sam Curran making things happen, Chris Woakes returning in the near future and you have to ask yourself: Have England ever produced such a likeable bowling attack?
8. It’s Rishabh Pant’s world now…
It seems scarcely believable now that at the beginning of the winter, Pant was seen as something of a luxury player whose place in any India team was far from guaranteed.
A few months on, he is without doubt the most exciting cricketer in world cricket.
This ODI series summed up his sensational and unconventional hitting range.
At one stage, England appealed for an LBW as Pant missed his attempted ramp shot. The umpire raised his finger, only for replays to show that he had somehow managed to deflect the ball with the toe of his bat.
That was fortunate, but it underlined the way Pant sometimes has to be seen to be believed.
He is trademarking that leg-side six, in which the feet barely move but the bat swishes through the line of the ball with disdain.
It feels like we’re watching a scarily talented kid taking up Kwik Cricket who can’t quite believe how easy it is.
That cackle is here to stay. Take this form into the T20 World Cup and he could become world cricket’s biggest star.
9. England remain number one, but India’s depth is frightening…
Morgan’s England have played their part in changing the trajectory of white-ball cricket but India’s sparkling recent form is an indication of their position as the best team across all formats in the world.
Here, for reference, is a list of players who had minimal or no impact in the recent ODI series:
Ravichandran Ashwin; Jasprit Bumrah; Washington Sundar; Ravindra Jadeja; Ishan Kishan; Suryakumar Yadav; Deepak Chahar; Yuzvendra Chahal; Sanju Samson; Mohammed Shami; Shubman Gill; Mayank Agarwal; Axar Patel; Rahul Chahar; Navdeep Saini
The list is not exhaustive…. *gulps*
10. Kolkata Knight Riders get a new legion of fans in England….
Prasidh Krishna may have been the breakout star on the pitch but off it, it was his KKR team-mate who made the biggest impression on English viewers.
Complete with the jazziest of shirt collections, Dinesh Karthik’s insightful contributions to the Sky Sports coverage were one of the highlights of the series.
With Eoin Morgan at the helm, there will be a lot of viewers rooting for Karthik and KKR when the IPL gets going.