India edge England in battle of power-hitters to win 3rd ODI and series
Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and all-rounder Hardik Pandya showcased their talent with the bat, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur starred with the ball, as India pulled off a 7-run win in the 3rd ODI against England to claim the series 2-1 in Pune. Sam Curran put up a brave fight for England as he hammered 95 runs in 83 balls to take the visitors close to a win, which once looked improbable. Young T Natarajan held his nerve to bowl a superb last over to ensure the hosts ended the tour by winning in all three formats.
With the series hanging in the balance at 1-1, England's stand-in captain Jos Buttler elected to bowl after calling it right at the toss. Virat Kohli and his men had the tough task of setting a big enough target as the visitors had overhauled a total of 336 easily in the previous encounter.
India openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were off to a brisk start as they stitched together a century stand in less than 15 overs. The hosts though were put in a spot of bother as they lost three wickets in quick succession. The triumvirate of Sharma (37), Dhawan (67) and Virat Kohli (5) were removed in the space of 18 runs as India collapsed from 103 for no loss to 121/3. Spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali had turned the innings on its head.
That brought the young and in-form Rishabh Pant into the middle and the southpaw got going from the beginning. India lost previous game's centurion KL Rahul cheaply but Pant carried on in the company of Hardik Pandya. The duo smashed their way to a 99-run partnership in the middle overs as they played counter-attacking cricket at its best.
India looked good for a total in excess of 350 with Pant and Pandya going ballistic but both men got out at the wrong time to hand the initiative back to England. After Sam Curran dismissed Pant for 78 off 62 balls, Pandya was cleaned up by Ben Stokes for 64. India lost quick wickets in the death overs, eventually getting bundled out for 329 as they failed to bat out their full quota of 50 overs.
The chase didn't go according to plan for England as they lost wickets at regular intervals and failed to get a partnership going. Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave early jolts to the visitors, dismissing openers Jason Roy for 14, and the dangerous Jonny Bairstow for 1.
Left-arm medium pacer T Natarajan dismissed Ben Stokes for 35, after which Shardul Thakur picked up three wickets, dismissing captain Jos Buttler (15), Liam Livingstone (36), and Dawid Malan (50), to put India in a commanding position.
The arrival of Sam Curran on the crease at the lowly number 8 spot changed the course of the chase. He put on a brisk partnership with Moeen Ali, who was dismissed for 29 by the prodigious Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The score at that point was 200/7 and India were eyeing an early finish to the game.
Not one to throw in the towel till the last dice is rolled, Curran kept going for the big hits in the company of Adil Rashid, who scored an assured 19 off 22 balls to keep the visitors in the hunt.
Thakur dismissed Rashid but Mark Wood kept Curran company till the end as the Indians dropped high catches one after another to give the duo several chances. India's laxity in the field meant the match went down to the wire with England needing 14 runs off the last over to win the match and the series and 13 to take it to a super over.
Young T Natarajan was handed the ball to do the tough job but luckily for the hosts, Curran slipped at the non-striker's end while trying to turn for the second run on the first delivery and that gave Hardik Pandya the chance to run Mark Wood out for 14 runs.
Curran though got chances to hit his way to a century and also take England home but Natarajan bowled superbly to deny him and the visitors as India won by 7 runs.
Curran was adjudged 'Player of the Match' while Jonny Bairstow was chosen 'Player of the Series' for his exemplary batting in the first two matches of the series.