Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya’s heroic batting efforts went in vein as England produced a disciplined performance riding on an all-round show by Ben Stokes to defeat India by five runs in a nerve-wracking third One Day International cricket match at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
However, with India having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead after the first two games, it was only a consolation win for the visitors before a full house at the iconic Eden Gardens, where the track’s bounce and movement afforded good assistance to the English seamers.
Put in to bat by Indian skipper Virat Kohli, England consolidated a sound start with rollicking slog-hitting to post an imposing 321/8. In reply, India managed 316/9.
Chasing 322 for victory, India began poorly, and despite some repairwork by Kohli (55; 63b 8×4) and veteran Yuvraj Singh, saw half of their batsmen back in the hut with only 175 on the board.
However, there followed an awesome 83-ball 104-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Kedar Jadhav (90; 75b, 12×4, 1×6) and Hardik Pandya (56; 43b, 4×4, 2×6), which raised the hopes of yet another superlative Indian victory from a difficult position.
But the script did not go as the way it has been going in recent times, though the match went to the wire.
After Stokes saw the back of Pandya in the 46th over, and then dismissed Ravichandran Ashwin in the 48th, India needed 16 off the final over.
Jadhav, India’s latest find adjudged man of the series, hit pacer Chris Woakes for a six and four in the first two deliveries, to bring the requirement down to 6 off 4 balls.
But Woakes fought back with two dot balls, and then got Jadhav back into the pavilion as the latter went for a slog that was gleefully accepted by Sam Billings at deep point.
Now India needed six from one ball. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed, and celebrations broke out in the England camp.
For Stokes, who got the Man of the Match award for a cracking unbeaten half-century and bowling figures of 3/63, it was a classic reversal of fortune. It was on this same ground where he was clobbered for four back-to-back sixes by West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite in the last over of the World T20 finals last year to fashion a Caribbean triumph.
The Indian reply began on the wrong note. Ajinkya Rahane (1) departed as early as the second over, failing to negotiate a late swing from David Willey, and drove down the wrong line to see his off stump dislodged.
Skipper Virat Kohli, played some exquisite strokes, disdainfully dispatching Chris Woakes to the fence through long leg and Mid wicket of consecutive balls, and a over later cover drove him majestically for another four.
But India got another jolt a little later, as Lokesh Rahul (10) went out to a poor shot.
Coming together, Kohli and Yuvraj Singh authored a 65-run third wicket stand.
But Yuvraj – on 3 – got a painful taste of the nature of the wicket, when pacer Jake Ball surprised the left-hander with one that kicked off the wicket and hit the batsman on the chest.
At the other end, Kohli was lucky to be the beneficiary of a dropped catch at long leg. The unlucky bowler was Liam Plunkett.
Kohli reached his 39th half-century in 179 ODIs, needing 54 balls to get to the landmark, before the 100 of the innings came in 19 overs.
But soon after India lost the big wicket of Kohli (55; 63b 8×4), Stokes pitched the ball up, almost inviting Kohli to go for a shot, and the intended cover drive finished as an edge to Buttler.
Dhoni (25; 36b 1×4 1×6) joined Yuvraj and the experienced pair took the score to 132/3 at the halfway stage.
Yuvraj, however, was dismissed in the next over, needlessly lofting Plunkett into the hands of the deep mid wicket fielder.
Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav were then involved in a 42-run stand that ended with the former top edging Ball to Buttler.
Earlier, Stokes remained unconquered with a scintillating 57 runs as England set India an asking rate of 6.44.
After some initial discomfort in the opening overs when the Indian pacers got help from the wicket, openers Jason Roy (65; 56 balls, 10×4, 1×6) and Sam Billings (35; 58 balls, 5×4) put on 98 runs to set a perfect launch pad for England.
Jonny Bairstow (56; 64 balls, 5×4, 1×6) and Eoin Morgan (43; 44 balls, 2×4, 3×6) negotiated the middle overs well with a 84-run stand, before Stokes (39 balls, 4×4, 2×6) blasted the cherry in the later stages, plundering 73 runs during a 40-ball partnership for the seventh wicket with Chris Woakes (34; 19 balls, 4×4, 1×6).
England 321-8 in 50 overs (Jason Roy 65, Ben Stokes 57 not out, Jonny Bairstow 56; Hardik Pandya 3-49, Ravindra Jadeja 2-62).
India 316-9 in 50 overs (Kedar Jdhav 90, Hardik Pandya 56, Virat Kohli 55; Ben Stokes 3/63).