The 3-match ODI-Series between India and England couldn’t have come to a more exciting finish. All six innings produced far in excess of 300 runs each time and spectators at Pune, Cuttack and Kolkata were treated to a great show of competitive cricket. In the concluding fixture at Kolkata’s famed Eden Gardens, India needed 322 for victory but fell 5 runs short. Victory or defeat aside, the two teams were not found wanting on efforts throughout. One Indian, Kedar Jadhav will regret for the rest of his life that he missed a huge chance of carving out his name in a miraculous victory. That honor went to England’s Chris Woakes, who produced 4 dot balls in the last over after Jadhav belted the first two balls for 10 runs. Woakes claimed Jadav’s wicket off the fifth ball and instantly grabbed the limelight that could have easily gone to Jadhav. England fielders heaved a huge sigh of relief after seeing Jadhav’s back, when India still required 6 off the last ball. However, India didn’t have a Javed Miandad to do that. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was too inadequate to fill the role of the Pakistani gutter-fighter and Woakes became a hero in England’s 5-run victory.
Keeping the trend intact, the toss-winning side decided to field first. Kohli continued to believe in going for the chase rather than setting a target. That brought the in-form opener Jason Roy with a new partner in Sam Billings at Kolkata. Roy went after Indian bowlers just as he had done in the previous two games and Billings became a willing contributor. The two of them added 98 for the first wicket before Billings left. Though Roy also left soon, after making a stroke-filled 65 off 56 balls, England continued the assault with Jonny Bairstow and skipper Eoin Morgan. They added 84 runs in good time before Morgan fell to a rank bad ball from Hardik Pandya. He played straight in the hands of Jasprit Bumrah stationed on the leg-side. Jos Buttler was next to go as England reached 212/4 in 38th over and didn’t relent as Ben Stokes thundered in the company of others. While Bairstow and Moeen Ali couldn’t last long, Chris Woakes produced a 19-ball 34 run cameo to keep pace with Stokes and England reached a very competitive 321/8 in 50 overs.
India’s chase of 322 began on a wobbling note with Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul getting out by the 6th over. But at 37/2, India had Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh at the crease. The two of them added 65 before Kohli fell in the 20th over. Kohli made 55 off 63 balls and soon Yuvraj also fell for a rather slow 45 off 57. Now Dhoni had Pune ODI hero Kedar Jadhav for company but India had fallen back on the asking run-rate. After Dhoni’s departure in 32nd over, Jadhav had the company of the hard-hitting Hardik Pandya. It was here that India’s chase really came alive. After making a 43-ball 56, Pandya fell with the India score reading 277/6 in 46th over. They were still some distance away but Jadhav steered them close with solid stroke-making. Jadhav’s only regret was the lack of company on the other side but he went on regardless.
Then came Chris Woakes’ 50th over, when India needed 16 off 6 balls for victory. Off the first, Jadhav waited before hoisting it over extra-cover for a huge six and tried to emulate a similar shot off the next ball. But Jadjav only got a boundary and 6 off the last 4 balls looked entirely possible. The Eden crowd was already celebrating. They, however, didn’t brace themselves for Woakes’ next 4 balls. The Englishman didn’t allow Jadhav any room off the third ball and Jadhav swung his bat to the fourth as it went through to the keeper. Now everything depended on the last two balls. Then Woakes silenced Indian supporters as he lured Jadhav into playing a sliced shot to an outside-off ball. The timing was faulty and the edge flew to a gleeful Sam Billings. Kedar Jadhav couldn’t take India to victory after smashing 90 off 75 balls. Bhuvi Kumar had one ball and India still needed 6 runs. But Woakes knew what to do. As he bowled on the off-side, Kumar went for a wild swing and missed. Woakes had done it for England as they won the Kolkata ODI by 5 runs.
India still won the ODI series 2-1 but the Kolkata game didn’t fall on excitement. Ben Stokes was aptly chosen as the Player-of-the-Match award but for his 232 runs from three matches, Kedar Jadhav was the undisputed Man-of-the-Series. In the post-match interview, Jadhav admitted his timing error on the ball that claimed his wicket. But this is cricket and these things happen. Now India and England go for a 3-match T20 series beginning on January 26 at Kanpur’s Green Park.
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