Kolkata: When two of the best teams in the game collide, sparks are expected to fly. England, the world champions, had looked a transformed side once the white ball contests began and wickets had got truer - but not too many of their diehard fans would have expected them to record their highest ever chase against India - a staggering target of 337 and that too with more than six overs to spare in the second ODI at Pune on Friday.
They have to thank a six-hitting feast from two of their most fearsome strikers of the cricket ball - Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. The short and beefy Bairstow (124) and the lean and athletic Stokes (99) may make an odd couple at the crease, but they matched each other sixes for sixes (17 in all) and put on 175 for the second wicket to take England home in 43.3 overs with six wickets to spare.
The three-match series is now level at 1-1 with the decider on Sunday.
Stokes, who hit 10 sixes in his 52-ball blitz, missed out on his hundred after being caught behind off Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Bairstow fell to Prasidh Krishna in the very next over. The wiry Krishna, who made a highly impressive debut in the first ODIs, then yorked stand-in-skipper Jos Buttler for a duck.
England lost three wickets for three runs, but Dawid Malan (16) and debutant Liam Livingstone (27) took the team home with an unbroken stand of 50.
Bairstow brought up his 11th ODI hundred in 95 balls with a six off Kuldeep Yadav, who also took a hammering from Stokes, the Durham left-hander hammering him for three successive sixes in one over as he raced from 50 to 99 in just 12 balls.
KL Rahul on song
Earlier, KL Rahul was on song to hit his fifth century on ODIs and was involved in century stands with skipper Virat Kohli, who made 66, and then Rishabh Pant, who smashed a rapid 77.
Reece Topley sent back Shikhar Dhawan caught at slip for four and fellow quick Sam Curran got Rohit Sharma out for 25. Kohli and Rahul put on 121 for the second wicket to lay the foundations of India’s challenging total.
Kohli, who was dropped on 35 by Buttler off Adil Rashid, completed his fifth fifty in seven international innings before being finally caught by Buttler off Rashid.
Rahul, who made an unbeaten 62 in India’s win in the opening game on Tuesday, looked in control and caressed the ball to all parts of the small ground - his 114-ball knock being studded with seven fours and two sixes.
Pant reached his fifty with a six and smashed seven sixes in his 40-ball blitz. Hardik Pandya hit 35 off 16 balls as India finished with a flourish, scoring 126 runs from the last 10 overs.
R. Sharma c Rashid b S. Curran 25
S. Dhawan c Stokes b Topley 4
V. Kohli c Buttler b Rashid 66
KL Rahul c Topley b T. Curran 108
R. Pant c Roy b T. Curran 77
H. Pandya c Roy b Topley 35
K. Pandya not out 12
S. Thakur not out 0
Extras (lb2, w7) 9
Total (50 overs, 6 wickets) 336
Fall of wickets: 1-9 (Dhawan), 2-37 (Sharma), 3-158 (Kohli), 4-271 (Rahul), 5-308 (Pant), 6-334 (H. Pandya)
Bowling: S. Curran 7-0-47-1 (w2), S. Curran 8-0-50-2 (w1), T. Curran 10-0-83-2 (w2), Stokes 5-0-42-0 (w2), Ali 10-0-47-0, Rashid 10-0-65-1
J. Roy run out (Sharma/Pant) 55
J. Bairstow c Kohli b Krishna 124
B. Stokes c Pant b Kumar 99
D. Malan not out 16
J. Buttler b Krishna 0
L. Livingstone not out 27
Extras (b4, lb2, w8, nb2) 16
Total (43.3 overs, 4 wickets) 337
Fall of wickets: 1-110 (Roy), 2-285 (Stokes), 3-287 (Bairstow), 4-287 (Buttler)
Bowling: Kumar 10-0-63-1 (w1), Krishna 10-0-58-2 (w1, nb1), Thakur 7.3-0-54-0 (w1, nb1), Yadav 10-0-84-0 (w1), K. Pandya 6-0-72-0 (w4)