Nothing about what happened next was predictable, least of all the fact that Suryakumar Yadav, India's 30-year-old batsman playing his first T20i innings, and the often-overlooked Hardik Pandya would be key figures in the team's victory, and the series would end with the series tied at 2-2 with one match remaining.
When England won the toss and put India in the fourth Twenty20, a cloud of inevitability settled over the tie, a wildly misleading illusion that persisted as long as Rohit Sharma hammered the first ball over long-off for six. The dew set in early and high, effectively neutralizing the advantage enjoyed by the side batting second, and the dew set in early and heavy, largely neutralizing the advantage enjoyed by the side batting second.
The good news is that if England loses this game, they must win the next to avoid losing the series, which is the nearest thing to World Cup knockout conditions before the final. Pandya was the most outstanding bowler, with figures of two for 16, but it was Shardul Thakur who ultimately decided the match, with consecutive off-cutters taking the wickets of Stokes and Morgan, leaving Sam Curran, who has only achieved double figures in this style once, to leave the tail in search of 45 runs in just over three overs. They'll have learnt from this game that they should actually start practicing their cutters, the deliveries that have benefited India's seamer's progress.
There was a time when it appeared possible. Jofra Archer shot four down the field and six over midwicket with five balls remaining and a goal of 22. After an interminable conference with the vice-captain, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli was taken off the field as a precautionary move to avoid an innocuous twinge from being a full-blown niggle, Thakur sent down consecutive wides and seemed to be losing his grasp in the literal sense. There were several wild moments, which began when Archer swung at the next ball with the end of his bat, which promptly fell off.
England's expectations were shattered with that chunk of wood, and after a single, Chris Jordan sent the next delivery to Pandya, who made the match-winning intervention at long-off. It was a breath of fresh air in what had previously been a drab film.
Dawid Malan, like the hopelessly out-of-form KL Rahul in India's innings, scored 14 runs off 17 balls, is suffering, and is probably conscious that only Kohli has a higher average than the absent Joe Root among all batsmen who have played at least 10 T20 internationals in India. Whereas India had stumbled in their powerplays previously, this time it was England, batting second, who struggled. Roy took nine balls to score, and although he finally achieved a respectable total, it was not without chance, as he hit two boundaries in three balls from the inside and outside edges, respectively.
Surviving for 17 was an improvement for Rahul after his previous four T20i innings had all ended after an average of four deliveries, even though all he really managed to do with the extra time in the middle was prolong his own agony. There were a lot of well-hit boundaries, but 14 runs at an 82.35 strike rate is a long way from a return to form for a man who previously averaged 45.35 at 145.19. Mark Wood's third over, a perfect maiden, summed up his recent woes.
In the absence of Ishan Kishan, who was the hero of the second game of the series, Yadav – also known as Sky – made his debut at No 3 and made a convincing case for a spot in India's World Cup starting XI, boosted by three seasons of Indian Premier League success. Yadav struck his first international cricket delivery for six, lifting it off his hip and over fine leg, and the innings that followed were written with elegance and evident composure.
As a result, India were able to shake off Kohli's defeat, in which the captain was totally outfoxed by Adil Rashid and stumped by Jos Buttler for one, and demolish all preconceptions of what could happen in Saturday's decider.