Pune, March 28
The Indian cricket team completed one of its best four-month spells across formats, pipping England by a mere 7 runs after surviving Sam Curran’s determined assault in an edge-of-the seat third and final ODI for a well-deserved hat-trick of series victories.
For India, near domination of England in all three formats at home comes straight after humbling Australia in their own backyard earlier this year during a gruelling tour.
The 2-1 triumph against the reigning world champions in 50-over cricket will certainly please Virat Kohli but he will not at all be amused by the fact that India nearly let the game slip away with some unimaginative bowling and poor fielding at the death.
Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya hit stroke-filled half-centuries but Indian lower-order also caved in meekly to settle for a below-par 329 on a great batting track.
But Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/42) and new all-rounder in making Shardul Thakur (4/67 and 30 runs) got the breakthroughs at just the right times before player of the match Curran (95 not out off 83 balls) almost changed the result singlehandedly coming in at no.8.
England finished on 322 for 9.
“When the top-two battle each other, we’ll get exciting games. No one will throw in the towel, and Sam played a really good innings to keep them in the hunt,” Kohli said in the post-match presentation.
Yorker specialist Thangarasu Natarajan bowled a brilliant final over with England needing 14 but Curran could manage only six runs because the Indian bowled mostly in the block-hole.
It was a gettable total on a flat pitch but Kohli’s ploy to attack with predominantly pace attack paid off for the better part of the game before Curran launched a swift counter-assault.
“…it took great character to play the way he did, and he has those amazing qualities in abundance. I know he will be disappointed he didn’t get us over the line, but we are all very proud of him and his performance,” said England captain Jos Buttler, standing in for an injured Eoin Morgan.
Bhuvneshwar brought in his nearly decade long experience with a beautiful inswinger that castled Jason Roy (14).
He then bowled another in-cutter which left series top-scorer Jonny Bairstow (1) on the wrong side of the Decision Review System after the opener was forced to remain inside the crease when Pant came up to the stumps.
Ben Stokes (35, 39 balls) got a reprieve when he looked all but out with Pandya dropping a dolly at mid-off.
And when it looked that Stokes will dispatch Natarajan into the deep square leg stands, he managed to hit the full toss straight to Shikhar Dhawan, who did his famous thigh slap celebration.
Jos Buttler (15 off 18 balls) was then trapped leg before by Thakur as England stared down the barrel at 95 for 4 when Liam Livingstone (36) and Dawid Malan (50) joined forces for a 60-run stand.
Livingstone’s on-drive and a pull off Thakur were classy shots and once he was set, he lofted Krunal Pandya for a six over long-on.
However, Livingstone had a lapse of concentration while trying to check his shot off an innocuous full-toss from Thakur which ended in the simplest of return catches.
With half of the team gone for 155, the match became a no-contest when Thakur had Malan pulling straight to Rohit Sharma at short mid-wicket.
But then Curran, first with Adil Rashid and then with Mark Wood, nearly changed the game before India prevailed.
Earlier, Pant’s sparkling knock of 78 off 62 balls was well supported by Hardik (64 off 44 balls) but India lost their last four wickets for a mere eight runs to finish at least 30 short of a competitive total on another belter.
Pant, during his career-best knock plundered, four maximums and five boundaries, while Hardik had five fours and four sixes during their 99-run stand for the fifth wicket.
However, Krunal Pandya’s (25 off 34 balls) serious limitations while facing express pace were exposed by Wood (3/34) as India lost the momentum during the final 10 overs despite a brilliant 103 run opening stand inside 15 overs between Rohit Sharma (37; 6×4) and Shikhar Dhawan (67 off 56; 10×4).
It was a day when India’s top order was troubled by English spinners with Adil Rashid’s (2/81 in 10 overs) googlies in successive overs removing Rohit and Dhawan.
Skipper Virat Kohli (7) tried to rock back and play a cut shot only to be bowled by a Moeen Ali off-break.
However, Pant started off from where he had left in the last game and ditto for Hardik as they took apart Rashid by reading wrong ‘uns well.
Hardik smashed three sixes off Ali which forced the captain to take him out of attack as 200 came in the 30th over.
Once both were dismissed in quick succession, it required a 30 off 21 balls from “new all-rounder” Thakur for a total in excess of 325 on the board. PTI