England prevail in thriller

Jadhav's 90 goes in vain as visitors beat India by five runs for consolation win

England prevail in thriller
After being punished badly twice for failing to take early advantage, England finally savoured the sweet taste of success, thwarting India’s bid for a whitewash in a nerve-jangling third and final one-day international here on Sunday.

Looking to have undone all their good work just like in the previous two games, England survived by the skin of their teeth in the face of Kedar Jadhav (90, 75b, 12x4, 1x6) and Hardik Pandya’s (56, 43b, 4x4, 2x6) onslaught to script a morale-boosting five-run victory. India’s pursuit of the challenging 322-run target got off to a poor start when openers Ajinkya Rahane (1) and K L Rahul (11) fell without contributing much. Skipper Virat Kohli, a massive thorn in England’s side starting from the Test series last November, raised hopes of a successful chase but when he fell for a well-made 55 (63b, 8x4) in the 20th over, England wore a relieved look. And when the dangerous Yuvraj Singh, who scored a career-best 150 in the previous ODI, too departed at midway stage of the contest to leave India at 133/4, England fancied their chances.

But England were in positions of great strength in the previous two games as well only to wilt under some riveting individual brilliances. To their dismay, it looked like deja vu as Jadhav, the man of the match in the opening ODI, and Pandya staged a stunning counter-attack to leave them shattered.

While Jadhav was calculative in his assault, Pandya, who starred with the ball earlier in the day with a 3/49 effort, showed immense confidence in his striking abilities. The two absolutely decimated the England bowlers.

Playing with no fear whatsoever despite English bowlers testing them with a few short ones on a fast and bouncy pitch that stayed true till the end, both Jadhav and Pandya kept teeing off and as the boundaries kept coming at the rate of knots, the Englishmen were left scratching their heads.

England hoped for luck as even edges kept flying to the boundaries. They got one when Pandya fell to Stokes in the 46th over, bringing to end a 104-run association. His dismissal was followed by Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin gifting their wickets away cheaply with the tape in sight. It then left Jadhav with the onerous task of guiding home the team.

The diminutive Pune right-hander looked like pulling off another heist as he smashed Chris Woakes for a six and a four off successive balls while needing 16 off the last over. He played and missed the next two balls as tension grew. He then went for a big shot over covers off the penultimate ball but was caught by Sam Billings. Jadhav walked off disappointed and England stayed calm in the final ball to finally afford a smile.

England, earlier, were in for a surprise when they were put into bat on a nice balmy winter afternoon. Pace bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pandya repeatedly harried English openers Jason Roy and Sam Billings with a probing opening spells with the ball, beating the edges on a number on occasions.

Roy and Billings, playing some pre-meditated shots, rode their luck to continuously defy India who where unlucky not to get a scalp or two. Both, however, frittered away all the advantage just when England appeared to take full advantage. Billings (35, 58b, 5x4) fell prey while playing a reverse sweep and Roy (65, 56b, 10x4, 1x6) was out bowled — both to Jadeja (2/62). England then lost their way a bit in the middle phase but late assault from Ben Stokes (57 n.o., 39b) and Chris Woakes (34, 19b) gave them a winning total.

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