India defended their total of 129-7 in a match reduced to 20 overs per side because of rain to beat England by five runs at Edgbaston as the hosts - who needed 20 to win off the last 16 balls with six wickets in the bank - collapsed with victory in their grasp.
"After an iffy start, England got into a great position in the 18th over where you really felt it was their game to lose," reflected Athers.
"Having said that, it was a performance of great heart and skill by India in the way they fielded and the way their spinners bowled to defend 129.
"You could disagree with a lot of the things that Dhoni did as captain but he was always inventive and he was always on the attack.
"He's a remarkable cricketer when you think about all of the world titles that he's won now - 20-over tournament, Champions Trophy, World Cup and his side was the best Test side in the world for a short time with him at the helm. So that's a remarkable record."
Slow bowlers Ravindra Jadeja (2-24) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2-15) turned the screw on England, while seamer Ishant Sharma picked up the wickets of Eoin Morgan (33) and Ravi Bopara (30) in successive balls after the pair had come together with England on 46-4.
Former England skipper Nasser Hussain said the double strike proved decisive but believes that England's failings against spin remain one of their biggest weaknesses.
"I still think spin is a nemesis for England," said Hussain. "Alastair Cook said after the match that it was a spinning pitch - and it did spin a lot - but you've still got to find a way to get the job done.
"You know when you are playing against India at Edgbaston nowadays that it is going to turn and Jadeja and Ashwin strangled England in those middle overs.
"England needed a good start so that the likes of Cook and Ian Bell were in and 15-20 not out when the spinners came on but they never got any momentum.
"They were frenetic and the pressure and atmosphere of this place got to them until that partnership between Bopara and Morgan."
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