Fantastic batsmen Pant and Pandya lead India to series victory

By Kersi Meher-Homji 

Rishabh Pant’s unbeaten and magnificent 125 runs off only 113 balls was fantastic to watch. His heart-lifting innings included 16 glorious fours and two sixes. At the end he smashed five fours in five balls off fast bowler David Willey. Sheer magic!

This was his first century in One Day Internationals (ODI) and I describe his innings as truly “Pantastic”!

All-rounder Hardik Pandya was equally responsible for India’s victory in the third and final ODI at Manchester and their series win. He scored 71 runs with 10 fours and adding 133 for the fifth wicket with Pant.

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Hardik Pandya shone with the ball as well capturing 4 for 24. Leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal was just as effective taking 3 for 60.

Sent in to bat, England was bowled out for 259 runs in 46 overs. Their opening batsman Jason Roy started brilliantly hitting three fours in the first over of the match by Mohammed Shami. Then Mohammed Siraj, replacing an injured Jasprit Bumrah, put England in crisis dismissing their star batsmen Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root for ducks.

Roy scored 41 runs and skipper Jos Buttler 60 to rescue England.

Set 260 runs to win the match and the series, India started poorly losing 4 for 72. The three big guns of Indian cricket – skipper Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli – were sent back to the pavilion by England’s fast bowler Reece Topley who took 3 for 35.

India appeared doomed to defeat but her flagging spirit was lifted by a partnership to treasure as the two Ps of Indian cricket, Pant and Pandya, added 133 runs for the fifth wicket. India won by five wickets with 47 balls remaining as also the series 2-1.

Pant was adjudged Player of the Match and Pandya Player of the Series.

Grabbing a bottle of champagne, Pant said, “Hopefully, I will remember my first ODI century for the rest of my life. But when I was in there, I was just focusing on one ball at a time. Coming in when a team is under pressure and you bat like that, that’s what you aspire to do. I enjoy playing in England and will do whatever I can do to keep enjoying my cricket. The more cricket you play, the more experience you get. It was the best pitch to bat on, so credit to our bowlers for keeping them to under 260. Not only this game, but also they have bowled well through the series. Not only in this series either, they have been excellent all year.”

Winning captain Rohit Sharma added (as quoted in CricInfo), “Very pleased. We came here, wanted to achieve something as a group in white-ball, and we did. Moving forward there are things we need to improve but pleased with the effort. We were here last time and we were beaten I remember. It is not easy place to come and win games but the way we played entire white-ball leg was fantastic. Wanted to do it for a long period of time, to achieve it was brilliant.

“(Today’s game) It was a good pitch, but we knew it won’t be easy if we lost wickets early. It happened, but the positive is that these guys haven’t batted a long period in the middle overs and we got to see that from Rishabh and Hardik. Both of them were clinical – at no point did we feel they were panicking. They played great cricketing shots. Chahal is a critical member, has so much experience, bowling in all sorts of formats. It was unfortunate that he missed the last T20 World Cup, but I’m pleased with how he has returned. Hardik as well, used the dimension well while bowling.”

Later in the week, India starts an away series in the West Indies.

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