England won the match by 86 runs to level series © Getty Images
England won the match by 86 runs to level series © Getty Images

Joe Root insisted England must stay “ruthless” when they go in search of a one-day international series victory over India at his Headingley home ground on Tuesday. Root’s well-constructed 113 laid the platform for an 86-run win at Lord’s on Saturday that saw England square the three-match contest at 1-1. His innings, allied to fifties from captain Eoin Morgan (53) and David Willey (50 not out) helped England post a total of 322 for seven.

India could only manage 236 all out in reply as they batted out their full 50 overs, with England fast bowler Liam Plunkett taking four for 46. Victory saw England remain at number one, with India second, in the International Cricket Council men’s ODI standings. It was a win made all the more satisfying by the fact England, the 2019 World Cup hosts, had suffered an eight-wicket drubbing in Thursday’s series-opener at Trent Bridge.

“That ruthless side of the ODI team really came out today (Saturday),” said Test skipper Root. “And we’re seeing it more and more.” ”Hopefully we can back that up and finish the series off now,” added Root after his first century at this level since March.

England were faltering at 239 for six but Willey picked a good time to make his maiden ODI half-century, with his innings coming during a quickfire seventh-wicket stand of 83 with Yorkshire team-mate Root. ”David came in and took a lot of pressure off me, to help us turn in what was at least a par score, so it was a fabulous effort from him,” said Root.

Prior to Saturday, Root had faced just three deliveries from India’s Kuldeep Yadav, whose left-arm wrist-spin had been proving something of a mystery for England’s batsmen. They certainly appeared to have little idea of how to play him while Kuldeep was enjoying a stunning return of six for 25 at Trent Bridge. But Root looked far more assured at Lord’s, even if Kuldeep still took three for 68. Root was dropped recently from England’s Twenty20 team and there have been suggestions that his brand of patient accumulation is no longer suited to the modern one-day game.

But when it comes to rebuilding an innings, there appears little wrong with Root’s approach. ”Ultimately you’ve just got to trust your game and trust your technique; I felt I was picking him (Kuldeep) OK,” he said. He added: “I feel I’ve got a solid approach against spin bowling.

“On a turning surface it’s important to make sure you feel you’re playing it in the right manner and working things out. ”Thankfully I managed to follow through here. I thought we were quite smart in getting to what we thought was a good total; we didn’t go too hard too early.” No India batsman made a fifty and the tourists struggled after England’s quicks took three wickets early in their chase.

“When we lost three wickets in around three overs that really hurt us,” said Virat Kohli, the India captain, who was out for 45. With India desperately needing quick runs, MS Dhoni  produced a curiously laboured innings of 37 off 59 balls — a display that saw the former captain booed by some sections of the normally polite crowd at Lord’s.

But Kohli defended Dhoni, who on Saturday became just the 12th man to score 10,000 ODI runs but the only one with an average of over 50, by saying: “When he does well, people call him the best finisher ever and when they don’t go well, they all pounce on him.  ”We all have bad days in cricket and today was a bad one for everyone, not just him.”