The series-clinching seven-run win for India on Sunday, while defending 329, just averted a third consecutive ODI series loss. India finished their international season dropping just one ODI series in Australia.
SCORECARD | AS IT HAPPENED
The plan was simple: all-out attack all the way both with bat and ball. It didn’t matter if England pegged them back with a few wickets or came hard with the bat with their now-enviable power-hitting.
India’s batting lineup led by Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya and a seam-heavy bowling attack, pulled through by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/42) and Shardul Thakur (4/67), were ready for a street fight. In essence, India adopted the world champion’s blow-for-blow game plan and eventually just managed to beat them at that.
Perhaps, Curran had too much to do with 257/8 in the 40th over. Other than the 60-run ninth wicket partnership between Curran and Mark Wood, Bhuvneshwar and Thakur offered the brakes every time England threatened to take charge in the chase.
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“…it took great character to play the way he [Curran] 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 in the post-match presentation.
The score of 329 may have been around the same totals India posted earlier in the series but the approach was both refreshing and ominous.
“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,” India skipper Virat Kohli said after the match.
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India decided to go like a high-end SUV on a freeway. Dhawan and Rohit Sharma went 0-103 in 14.4 overs. Dhawan with his 56-ball 67 was the accelerator-in-chief alongside Rohit’s run-a-ball 37. It took spin, like it has been a pattern for India’s famed top three, to give India a good shake as the hosts lost captain Kohli to Moeen Ali and Dhawan and Rohit to Adil Rashid in a space of 18 runs. Speed-breakers were never going to be an issue for them.
When Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya came together at 157/4, they sent out a clear message that the team was willing to absorb a few rude jerks on their way but speed-breakers were not going to slow them down.
Pant, like he has done in tricky situations over the last three months, rose to the occasion and carried out his unabashed counter-attack to score a 62-ball 78. Hardik played along and nonchalantly scored a 44-ball 64. Pant and Hardik made sure, unlike the previous games, they didn’t let the English spinners settle and took the attack to them with lusty hitting. The pair put together 99 off just 70 balls.
Proactive with the new ball
The go-for-the-kill attitude didn’t stop with the bat. Bhuvneshwar got back into his wicket-taking habit with the new ball. After three gut-sucking boundaries by Jason Roy off the first five balls of the chase, Bhuvneshwar came back with his last ball to knock his off-stump over. Pant then decided to come up to the stumps to Bhuvneshwar to keep the in-form Jonny Bairstow inside the crease. The result followed off the first ball Bairstow faced from Bhuvneshwar when he was trapped in front of the stumps for one and England were reduced to 28/2 in the third over. With Hardik bowling nine overs, it meant India didn’t rely much on the off-colour left-arm spin of Krunal Pandya.