Opener’s bruising 124 and one-drop’s belligerent 99 help England chase down 337 and level series 1-1; Rahul’s 114-ball 108, Pant and Hardik’s blistering knocks in vain
Despite being billed as vital cogs across all the formats, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes had had a quiet, if not ordinary, tour coming into the penultimate game in India. The duo couldn’t have asked for a better occasion than the must-win second ODI to make a sizeable contribution.
Such was the audacity of Bairstow and Stokes’ onslaught that England overhauled a stiff target of 337 without any fuss to level the series with a memorable win.
It was a pity that the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium wore a deserted look because of the pandemic. But the handful of host association officials, security guards and scribes who witnessed the action were left awestruck by the dazzling stroke-play of Bairstow (124, 112b, 11×4, 7×6) and Stokes (99, 52b, 4×4, 10×6).
Laying the foundation
Bairstow and Jason Roy (55, 52b, 7×4, 1×6) laid a solid foundation for the chase, but the game was in the balance when Roy was run out, thanks to Rohit Sharma’s brilliance at short mid-wicket in the 17th over. At 110 for one, Stokes took guard. Bairstow didn’t let the pressure of the scoreboard mount, continuing to find gaps at will.
There was hardly any dew, but the Indian bowlers were left dumbfounded as the pair mounted a brutal assault. Seldom did the batsmen play a slog. In fact, the feature of their clean hitting was that most of the duo’s sixes — 17 between them — were struck in the ‘V’.
Bairstow and Stokes sealed the deal between overs 31 and 35, pounding an astounding 87 runs, as England soared to 281 for one. It was sheer carnage.
Kuldeep Yadav suffered the most. The left-arm wrist-spinner was clobbered for 37 runs in two overs, while Stokes hammered 26 runs, including three sixes and a four, off left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya in the 34th over.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar bounced Stokes out, the batsman gloving a hook to Rishabh Pant. It triggered a mini-collapse, with three wickets falling in nine balls, but debutant Liam Livingstone and Dawid Malan had little trouble in completing the formalities with 39 balls to spare.
Stokes and Bairstow’s pyrotechnics meant the efforts of K.L. Rahul (108, 114b, 7×4, 2×6) and Pant (77, 40b, 3×4, 7×6) earlier in the day, which offered an ideal birthday gift to India batting coach Vikram Rathour, went in vain.
India added a whopping 126 runs in the last 10 overs, thanks largely to Pant and Hardik Pandya (35, 16b, 1×4, 4×6), after Rahul and Virat Kohli had steadied the ship earlier. While Kohli (66, 79b, 3×4, 1×6) failed to convert another fifty into a hundred, Rahul went on to do just that.
But in the end, England ensured that it not only won the game convincingly but also the mini-battle of range-hitting — tallying 20 sixes to India’s 14 — to set up an enticing decider on Sunday.
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