After X-factors Rishabh Pant (78) and Hardik Pandya (64) delivered when it really mattered, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/42) did the needful with his crucial early inroads.
As for England batsmen, they went back to committing those silly, unforced errors in favourable conditions and despite a late Sam Curran storm, India somehow prevailed in the third and final ODI by seven runs at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Sunday, recording yet another series win.
This being their fifth successive series victory, India capped off what truly has been a fantastic international season. In reply to India’s 329 in 48.2 overs, England finished at 322/9, courtesy Curran’s unbeaten 95.
In the end, England ought to look back at some of their soft dismissals. Ben Stokes, let off earlier when Hardik dropped a sitter, gifted his wicket away by hitting a full toss from T. Natarajan — replacing Kuldeep Yadav — straight to deep square leg. Liam Livingstone, having done all the hard work during his partnership with Dawid Malan, made the same mistake with Shardul Thakur being the lucky bowler then.
One can only feel for Curran, who fought a lone battle with two 50-plus stands with Adil Rashid and Mark Wood to take his team so, so close to the Indian total. But he too got a couple of reprieves on 22 and 87. In other words, had India not dropped those catches, the game may not have gone the distance.
Credit also needs to go to Natarajan, who, playing for the first time in the series, held his nerves to keep Curran at bay in the final over when England needed 14 off it. No wonder it was a huge relief for Virat Kohli and his men.
Winning a good toss once again, England had done well to reduce the hosts to 157/4 by the halfway stage. Openers Shikhar Dhawan (67) and Rohit Sharma (37) got India off to a flier, but Rashid and Moeen Ali pegged them back, with the leg-spinner accounting for both openers.
Soon after, Moeen had teammates in delight, removing captain Virat Kohli, who was undone by the trajectory and an extra bit of spin.
The in-form KL Rahul too perished a little while later. But just as he has been doing since the Tests, Pant threw caution to the winds and kept executing his strokes to perfection. So did Hardik.
Post Pant and Hardik dismissals, Shardul (30) played a cameo that turned out to be important in the end.
Shardul shone with the ball (4/67) too, varying his pace and length. But Bhuvneshwar made the actual difference with his fabulous opening spell.