With the series already a lost cause, England picked Kolkata’s Eden Gardens as the venue to break their victory drought in India since that dreadful World T20 final as they beat the hosts in a nail-biter by five runs on Sunday. India needed 16 runs from the final over in a chase of 322. Kedar Jadhav blasted the first two balls for a six and a four but Chris Woakes kept his cool to have him out caught for 90 (75b) and eventually hold India to 316/9.
India won the series 2-1 and England found a much-needed confidence before the three-match T20I series beginning next week.
It was at this venue where Ben Stokes was left holding his head after conceding six fours to hand West Indies WT20 trophy. For two deliveries on Sunday, it seemed the dreadful night had returned to haunt Eoin Morgan’s team but this time; they managed to end on the winning side and thus recorded their first victory on the tour having already lost a five-match Test series 0-4 last year.
England posted their successive 300 plus total after being sent in and yet again India who were devoid of a solid start meaning the middle order was exposed much earlier to their liking. It was a dead rubber alright but Virat Kohli must have looked to iron out the only flaw in his team when it comes to batting, seems to have – a dependable opening pair. Ajinkya Rahane (1) replaced Shikhar Dhawan in the playing XI and at the opener’s slot but failed. David Willey let slip a swinging delivery between his defenses to clatter the stumps. India lost an early wicket in yet another big chase. KL Rahul (11) too disappointed when his attempt to play a non-existent pull resulted in a top-edge after her had raised hopes with a six and four.
At 37/2 in six overs, it fell to captain Kohli and the middle order to take control of the chase. With last match centurion Yuvraj Singh in tow, Kohli went about his business passing a nervy phase during which he was beaten and dropped on 35. The relatively livelier and bowling friendly track made it a tad difficult for the Indian pair to get into their grooves quickly with the England bowlers finally finding the discipline that eluded them in the first two matches.
However, a little deviation in line or length resulted in punishment- Kohli unfurling his trademark whiplashes down the leg side and majestic cover drives to settle nerves. With a couple, he reached his half-century that was peppered with eight fours. But this was a pitch that suited England’s bowling and Stokes was the beneficiary when Kohli edged one to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler at 55.
That brought Yuvraj and MS Dhoni together, the stars of India’s recovery in Cuttack. Six overs later, Moeen Ali lured Yuvraj into a flick that flew to Billlings at midwicket boundary which ended his promising knock at 45. By 32nd over, England had also knocked down Dhoni and with a cushion of 148 runs to defend, they were the favorites.
But Jadhav and Pandya gave England another scare as they engineered an excellent recovery to raise a century stand for the sixth wicket, hitting half-centuries apiece. It was two consecutive fours off Woakes from Jadhav that signaled the revival in the 39th over. Pandya, who was wildly swinging his bat for nothing before, managed a top-edge in the next over that flew over the third man for a six. Between 39th and 45th over, the duo wiped out 66 runs off the target and the equation became a manageable 47 off 30.
But such has been the template of the series that a straightforward win has been hard to come by. So, Pandya was cleaned up by Ben Stokes for 56 and Ravindra Jadeja dazzled with two fours in a row before departing. Jadhav exploded at the end but it wasn’t enough as his tilt at clearing the ropes of the penultimate delivery was cut short by Billings at deep point.