What a thrilling climax as India wins a cliff-hanger

By Kersi Meher-Homji

The final One Day International (ODI) between India and England was a real nail-biter, the end of the match and the series in doubt till the final over, the final ball.

The series was level at one-all when the third and final ODI started at Pune. Amid mind-blowing tension India won by just seven runs and with it the series 2-1.

It was one of the most exciting matches I have watched (on TV, to be honest, till 4 am). Although India won, England’s all-rounder Sam Curran won the laurels, scoring an unbeaten 95 with nine fours and three sixes, remaining unbeaten till the heart-stopping end. Although on the losing side he deserved to be adjudged Man of the Match.

England won the toss and sent India in to bat. Rohit Sharma (37 runs) and Shikhar Dhawan (67) added 103 runs for the first wicket. Virat Kohli failed with the bat but Rishabh Pant (78) and Hardik Pandya (64) put India on the winning path, each belting four sixes.

After 37 overs, India was 4 for 256 and on way to a total of 400 but was dismissed for 329 in 48.2 overs, medium-pacer Mark Wood taking 3 for 34. He was ably assisted by bearded England spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. Those unused 10 balls would make a difference between winning and losing, I thought. And it almost did.

England lost their first two wickets cheaply but recovered through Dawid Malan’s aggressive 50. Still they were struggling at 7 for 200 in 30.3 overs and India looked confident of a victory. But Curran changed the scenario in a hurry. He smashed an unbeaten 95 off only 83 balls, hitting nine fours and three sixes.

As England accelerated through Curran’s stroke-play, I thought India erred in not choosing a spinner. An experienced spinner like Ravi Ashwin would have made a big difference.

After 46 overs, England on 8 for 289, needed 41 runs in four overs. But in the next over from Shardul Thakur, Curran hit 18 runs including a 6 and a 4 and the match turned England’s way; only 23 runs needed in three overs with Curran in magnificent form.

Just then Bhuvneshwar Kumar applied brakes. Still the match could have gone either way with England needing 14 runs in the final over. But they could add only six runs off  Natarajan economical final pulsating over and lost the epic thriller by 7 runs.

Victorious skipper Kohli said at the presentation, “As I mentioned, when top-two teams battle, you get exciting games. England will not throw in the towel at any stage, Sam [Curran] played well, but we kept taking wickets to put enough pressure on them.

“The mindset shifted in the last couple of overs. Hardik and Nattu [Natarajan] were brilliant to finish it off. [It’s] most disappointing for the guy to drop the catch. Everyone wants to do the best for the team on the field, but catches do get put down. But as individuals there’s no lack of intent and we eventually ended up crossing the line. I mean I’m surprised that Thakur wasn’t the Man of the Match. Four wickets and scoring 30 runs and Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] was a big contender for Man of the Series. These guys were the difference in middle overs and power play.

“Prasidh and Krunal were impressive, but the most pleasing thing is the depth of our batting. Very exciting times ahead for us. It has been an amazing season for us and we wanted to finish on a high. This tour has been sweet; winning every series.”

All six innings in this ODI series yielded 300 plus runs. A record?

India triumphed over England in all three formats of the game this year; winning the Test series 3-1, the T20 Internationals 3-2 and now the ODI series 2-1.

Jai Hind.

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