Sam Curran unleashed one of the finest assaults by a lower-order batsman on Indian soil. However, the southpaw couldn’t take England home as the visiting side fell agonisingly short of what could have been one of the most memorable comeback wins to hand India the third and final ODI, and the trophy, on Sunday.
After India adopted an aggressive approach from the start and got bowled out for 329 in the penultimate over on yet another belter of a surface at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, England staged a remarkable late charge, thanks to Curran’s exploits. But T. Natarajan defended 12 runs in the last over to help India clinch a seven-run win to seal the series.
The ODI series win meant India triumphed in each of the three formats against England over two months.
When Curran joined Moeen Ali at the crease in the 26th over, India looked to be cruising towards victory after Shardul Thakur had broken the back of England’s middle-order.
Well out of sight
At 168 for six, the target of 330 seemed well out of sight for England.
When Moeen’s uppish drive was latched on to by Hardik at mid-off to give Bhuvneshwar his third scalp in the 31st over, India was the only likely winner.
However, with brother Tom making way for Mark Wood, Sam had to rely on Adil Rashid to hang in there along with him.
Had Hardik — who had earlier dropped a skier to hand Ben Stokes a reprieve in the evening — not dropped running to his right from long-on off M. Prasidh Krishna, the game would have come to an early finish. But once he got the let-off, the left-handed Curran showed his ability as a batsman.
Just when Curran and Rashid’s 57-run stand was giving India a headache, Shardul was reintroduced into the attack and captain Kohli caught a stunner at short-cover to see Rashid’s back.
Then on, till the last over, Curran farmed strike and Wood batted sensibly whenever he had to and the pressure continued to mount on India.
Curran’s assault on Shardul in the 47th over brought England within touching distance. In the penultimate over, India dropped two more chances, thus raising England bench’s hopes.
However, with 12 required off the last over, Curran slipped while turning back for the second and Hardik’s rocket throw from long-on caught Wood short of the crease. Natarajan then bowled tight to help India cross the line.
Earlier in the afternoon, India took a cue from England’s crash-bang-wallop approach and executed it to near-perfection.
Despite England bowlers checking India from running away with the game by causing two mini-collapses, India piled on a challenging total.
Thanks to quickfire partnerships between openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan and power-hitters Rishabh Pant and Hardik, India brought up a total of 329 before being bowled out in the penultimate over after being asked to bat for the third time in succession.
When Kohli attempted an outlandish swat off Moeen’s offspin in the 18th over, the world champion could have been hoping to end the tour on a high. Kohli’s dismissal was the third wicket to lose in 19 balls and the home team was in danger of throwing away the advantage.
Despite pressing the accelerator from the beginning, Rohit (bowled through the gate) and Dhawan (caught and bowled) had been undone by Adil Rashid’s googlies in successive overs after they put on 103 in less than 15 overs.
But Pant and Hardik’s flawless strokeplay resulted in a 99-run stand off just 70 balls.
Shardul’s cameo ensured India crossed the 320-run mark despite losing the last four wickets quickly.
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