Shardul Thakur stuck to his habit of dismissing set batsmen and returned with four wickets. (In)swing-king Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed England’s in-form opening duo of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, and came back for his second spell to take out Moeen Ali followed by a death-bowling masterclass. On a day when the Indian team management seemingly lost faith in wrist-spin, the two seamers combined to give India the ODI series.

Credit to T Natarajan, Kuldeep Yadav’s replacement, also for holding his nerve in the final over, in which England required 14 runs. Out of rhythm until then, the left-arm seamer found his yorkers when it mattered most. Only six runs from the last over restricted the tourists to 322/9. The previous over from Hardik Pandya had accounted for just five as India won by seven runs.

India win!

Natarajan gives away just six runs in the final over, giving his team a seven-run victory.

It means India take the ODI series 2-1! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/Au4lyUs2EM

England played with the pride of world champions. Even when eight down, Sam Curran was taking the fight to the hosts through his wonderful 83-ball 95 not out. His 60-run ninth-wicket partnership with Mark Wood made even a cool customer like Ravi Shastri edgy. On the field, words were exchanged between Virat Kohli and Wood after DRS overturned an LBW decision against the latter. Under pressure, India’s catching slipped and the skipper looked frustrated. In the end though, the hosts triumphed, true to their habit of winning series deciders – four on the spin now starting from the Test series in Australia.

England didn’t give up without a fight, but they had lost too many wickets, which became their bugbear. Curran had to refuse a few singles towards the end, for he didn’t have an able batting partner at the other end. India won despite being bowled out in 48.2 overs and scoring what felt like about 20 runs short on a belter of a Pune pitch. A total of 329 was imposing on paper, but only two days ago, England had made short work of a 337-run victory target. On Sunday, when the ODI series was on the line, Kohli and Co stood up to be counted.

For the first time since the 2017 Champions Trophy, India were without Kuldeep or Yuzvendra Chahal in an ODI. Natarajan’s inclusion made the bowling attack pace-heavy. The decline of the two wrist-spinners will give Shastri and his coaching staff enough food for thought during the two-month IPL layoff. On the day, however, India played to their strengths and the decision paid off, by the skin of their teeth. The win completed a clean sweep against England – Test rubber followed by victories in the T20I and ODI series.

Picking early wickets was important from India’s point of view and Kumar delivered. Roy started off with 14 runs off Kumar’s first five balls but the medium pacer’s response on the final delivery of the over was a beauty of an inswinger that breached the opener’s defence.

Another inswinger accounted for Bairstow who had shuffled a little too far across – Rishabh Pant’s smart thinking of standing up to the stumps playing a part in the dismissal. 28/2 pegged England back. Thakur trapped Jos Buttler with an in-coming delivery and as Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone were building a partnership, he snapped up the latter with a knuckle-ball. The full-toss dipped and took the toe-end of the bat for a return catch. In his next over, Thakur got rid of the well-set Malan. The pitch by then had started to play a tad sluggish, and cutters and knuckle-balls from the two seamers became en vogue. Before that, Ben Stokes’ dismissal was a significant moment in the game.

Hardik’s animated mea culpa told the story. The all-rounder had dropped Stokes off Kumar on 15. So when Shikhar Dhawan caught the England batsman at deep square-leg off a Natarajan waist-high full-toss and the TV umpire adjudged the delivery legal – Stokes had stepped out of the crease and wasn’t in his normal position – Hardik had his ‘acquittal’ from the sin-bin. His extended and animated apology had an overflow of gratitude.

In a tight contest like this, Stokes’ early dismissal gave India a big advantage. The left-hander had survived a run-out opportunity as well. But his luck ran out soon. Hardik later dropped Curran on 23, but redeemed himself through his bowling and the run-out of Wood in the final over. Prasidh Krishna went for plenty. Save his last over, Natarajan, too, wasn’t on top of his game. Krunal Pandya was given only four overs. Hardik’s bowling performance – 0/48 from nine overs – on top of his 44-ball 64 proved to be crucial.

Yet again, Kohli lost the toss and India batted first. Rohit Sharma (37) and Dhawan (67) showed intent from the outset and India were 65 for no loss after 10 overs. Both the openers fell prey to Adil Rashid’s googlies. Kohli was done in by the length and zip of an Ali delivery. The India captain had made room to play a cut and was bowled. KL Rahul got out to a full-toss from Livingstone. From 157/4, Pant and Hardik counter-attacked to put pressure back on England. They scored cracking half-centuries but got out at the wrong time. Thakur’s 30 off 21 balls at the death turned out to be a very important cameo. India lost their last four wickets for eight runs, but this team has made fightback its second nature.

Shamik Chakrabarty … read more

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