Rishabh Pant’s maiden ODI century and Hardik Pandya’s all-round heroics fired India to an emphatic five-wicket win over England in the series-deciding third match on Sunday. The visitors claimed the three-match rubber 2-1.
After India were in a spot of bother at 72 for four in a chase of 260, the crack team of Pant (125 not out off 113 balls) and Hardik (71 off 55 ) engaged in a battle to outdo each other, as the tourists completed the task with 47 balls to spare. Hardik also grabbed a career-best 4/24 as a disciplined India bowled out England for 259 with more than four overs left in the innings.
Skipper Jos Buttler top-scored for England with an 80-ball 60, but it was the flamboyant all-rounder from Gujarat, who dominated the first half of the match with his excellent bowling, sending out a warning to the opponents in the year of the T20 World Cup. In the company of Hardik, Pant then showed his extraordinary skills with the bat as he smashed 16 fours and two sixes in his sublime knock at Old Trafford. This was after lanky seamer Reece Topley (3/35) again proved to be the wrecker-in-chief by removing the trio of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in quick succession.
Dhawan’s subdued run in the series continued as he fell for one while Rohit (17) reached out to a delivery that was angling away only to nick it to Joe Root at first slip.
Kohli edged one to Buttler after Topley bowled a ball that angled across. As has often been the case with him in recent times, Kohli looked good until he was in the mid- dle, but one small mistake and the maestro was walking back shaking his head. England were on top, as India were struggling at 38 for three in the ninth over. India could have been in a bigger hole had Buttler not missed a stumping off Moeen Ali to give Pant a life on 17. Pant and Hardik then stabilised the innings by mixing caution with aggression. The duo quickly put up a half-century stand to ensure India remained in the game, gradually taking control of the proceedings.
With a wide array of strokes at their disposal, both Pant and Hardik went about their task in a professional manner, rarely looking in any sort of discomfort.