ENGLAND’s MORAL VICTORY
Goosebumps ! A Hitchcock movie like suspense was over. India survived the late night scare batting of the England’s rookie all rounder Sam Curran in the One- day series decider at Pune and the wafer thin run margin of victory by India tells the story. And the man of the moment was India’s rookie left arm pacer Natarajan aka “ Yorker Nattu” who delivered it.
The usual razzmatazz at Indian cricket stadiums was missing as the match was held in a closed door atmosphere and in a bio-bubble environment.
And the role of the reverses was conspicuous in this match as England spinners, including the part-timer Livingston joining the party with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali to prevail upon India’s top order batsmen and India including a fourth seamer, Natarajan over a spinner to dent the hopes of England’s fancy to win this match.
When the ball was tossed to him to bowl by the Captain Kohli, “Nattu” without any inhibition took up the gauntlet . His agenda was clear. He had to defend 14 runs as the series and the Trophy were on the line.
Natarajan’s rusticity is a great appeal and his “never-say-die” spirit carried the day as India clinched the Cliffhanger piping England at the post and romped home by just 7 runs to outclass World’s the No.1 One day team, in the high octane the third and final One-dayer played today at M.C.A. Stadium, Pune to win the glittering trophy with 2-1 margin. England’s ODI series win in India is still eluding them since 1984-85.
The selection of the fourth seamer Natarajan in the decider proved to be a masterstroke of the Captain. Natarajan playing only his second one day internationals , who was wayward in the earlier spells of the match volunteered to bowl the ultimate over and proved his credentials as the “death” bowler as he held the nerves conceding just 6 runs using his special weapon of armoury “Yorkers” , leaving the forlorn England team and its supporters a heartburn.
The Indian dug-out at the stadium erupted in unison for the rambunctious celebrations and the Indians fans glued to the idiot box cried in ecstasy in the nail-biting finish.
Earlier in the day India put into bat in a belter pitch, took a cue out of England’s batting style as the Indian openers went hammer and tongs at England’s bowling and they put on century partnership. And there was a mini collapse in India’s camp as the top order caved in to the guiles of England’s spinners. The ship was steadied when the flamboyant Pant and the all rounder Hardik Pandya belted all the bowlers with 4 maximums and 5 boundaries each and a cameo by Thakur to set a formidable 329 runs.
There was high drama as the see-saw battle of the match between two titans for supremacy in the white ball cricket unfolded along the expected lines as this Indian team led by the aggressive captain came back from behind situations albeit with a narrow victory.
In this decider match India’s uncanny and niggardly in giving runs, the suave bowler Bhuvneshkumar dented early hopes of England’s merry-making runs by castling the over-ambitious Jason Roy with a perfect in-swinger in the first over itself and trapped the Hero of the last match, the enterprising Jonny Bairstow who was plumb in front of the wicket.
And Ben Stokes who was not as convincing as in the last match played a pull shot off Natrajan’s short ball only to be held in by the deep fine leg fielder , the “Gabbar” Dhawan, who gleefully accepted the dolly and celebrated it with his customary “thigh lap” . So, the trio of England batsmen who were the demi-gods in the previous match have gone early today.
The resurrection of England’s innings bolstered by Malan and Livingstone didn’t last long and they were losing wickets in clusters. Their partnership was broken by the new find pace bowler all rounder, Shardul Thakur who lured Livingstone with a full toss and he hit it straight to the bowler. And Thakur also claimed the stand-in Captain Jos Buttler with a leg cutter who shuffled across without getting into the line of the ball and was plumb in front of the wicket. And suddenly the panic has set in England’s camp.
Then came the defining knock by Sam Curran. Sam Curran played THOR in the mad run chase. The phlegmatic Pom’s all rounder played the life of his innings with the willow with his career best 95 * of 83 balls though he couldn’t close the finish line. He took a cue and played a la Dhoni, his IPL Captain. He batted very deep and took the game till the last ball. In fact he mentioned it early that the IPL experience with CSK team helped him to hone the skill to play in the sub-continent environments.
And England scored a moral victory as the tail wagged valiantly and fought till the end to match India’s 329 runs to lose the match only by a whisker (7 runs) with the surprising hero in Sam Curran and held their head in high.