Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Pant, Hardik set new template for pressure situations. Hardik and Pant, with their match-winning partnership, showed India the solution should they find themselves in such situations leading into the ODI World Cup next year.
Hardik and Pant, with their match-winning partnership, showed India the solution should they find themselves in such situations leading into the ODI World Cup next year.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, between them, have 42 centuries in run-chases batting in the top three positions in ODI cricket. But the last time Kohli registered a three-figure score in a chase was in August 2019, Rohit last struck a ton going after a target in January 2020 while Dhawan's recent century in the second innings came as far back as September 2018. Since the end of the 2019 World Cup till the start of the ODI series against England, India had chased 12 times and tasted success in only half the number of games. Two of their five losses came against Australia in November 2020, they also lost both times they chased during the 0-3 loss to South Africa early in 2022 while they had also fallen behind in a chase against New Zealand back in February 2020.
Since the end of the ODI on January 19, 2020 in Bengaluru – when Rohit struck 119 against Australia – until the start of third ODI against England on Sunday (July 17, 2022), not a single member of the Indian team managed a three-figure score in a chase, with Hardik Pandya's 90 coming in a losing cause against Australia in Sydney in November 2020 being the highest score within these parameters. Outside of the top three, the last centurion for India in a chase was Kedar Jadhav, who scored 120 batting at No.6 against England in Pune in January 2017.
While India had embraced their new aggressive path in T20I cricket, skipper Rohit had urged the batters to do so in the 50-over format as well. But being three or four down early in a chase was a recurring problem for India that hurt them in big matches. Chasing 337 in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan in 2017, India were reduced to 54 for 5 and there was no coming back from that. They were 24 for 4 in the 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand and despite some fight down the order from Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni, India fell short in a chase again.
India had also lost three or more wickets inside the first 15 overs on five occasions since the end of the World Cup till the third ODI against England, and they ended up on the losing side three times. It was an all too familiar situation for them in the deciding one-dayer in Manchester when the visiting side slipped to 38 for 3 in the ninth over, losing their top three early in a chase of 260. With Suryakumar Yadav also departing in the 17th over, India were reeling at 72 for 4, facing the prospect of losing their first bilateral ODI series against England since 2018.
Fresh off a six-wicket haul in the second ODI, Reece Topley was tasting more success and the Indian top order had to shoulder the blame as they fell to loose shots. And the odds were clearly against India. Their last century partnership outside the first two wickets in a chase came in November 2020 – a 128-run partnership for the fourth wicket against Australia between Dhawan and Hardik, which was in a losing cause. Rishabh Pant's highest contribution in a chase before this game was 32 and he averaged 12.9 in the second innings. And the last time Pandya scored over fifty in a successful chase was against Australia in September 2017.
Pant had an early reprieve when Jos Buttler missed a stumping chance while Pandya was lucky that Craig Overton was standing a few yards in from the fine leg boundary when he short-arm jabbed a pull that would have resulted in an easy catch had the fielder stayed near the boundary. But these chances apart, Pant and Pandya were largely in control of their shot-making as they built a steady partnership. Boundaries were a regular feature, they ran well between the wickets to keep the scoreboard ticking, and ensured that India did not fall behind the scoring rate.
In the previous match, India's middle-order veered on the side of damage control, and the pressure eventually caught up with them. But Pant and Hardik paced this partnership rather astutely, with the two batters playing contrasting roles. Although he scored a few boundaries, Pant exercised a bit of caution but Pandya ensured that his strike rate was on the higher side to put pressure on the England bowlers. Pant was batting on 19 off 28 when Pandya joined him at the crease and the right-handed all-rounder, with the confidence of a four-wicket haul in the first innings that kept England to 259, extended it to his batting.
When Pant reached 35 off 52 deliveries, Pandya had already reached that score off 28 balls, helping India maintain a scoring rate of 125 at the halfway stage of the innings. An on-the-up punch through cover and a powerful shot that had Pant ducking at the non-striker's end showcased Pandya's frame of mind as he struck boundaries off England's best bowler. Having raced to a 43-ball 50, he struck a crisp backfoot punch off Liam Livingstone and such was the timing of the shot that it travelled to the boundary and left the bowler amazed. Later Pandya also struck two successive fours off Brydon Carse before getting out to the same bowler but the partnership worth 133 runs, which was also India's first century partnership against England in England for the fifth wicket in nearly eight years, effectively sealed the chase.
Pant quickly took over after Pandya's departure. Having raised his bat for his maiden hundred in ODI cricket, Pant struck five fours on the trot in a Willey over and finished off the chase on the first ball off the 43rd. Symbolically, it was a reverse sweep for a four off Joe Root, who earlier in the month had played a similar shot for the winning run to draw the Test series against India. “We all know what talent he (Pant) has. Finally today he was playing the situation. The partnership changed the game for us. The way he finished the game was also special,” Hardik, the Player of the Series, had a word of praise speaking to the broadcaster during the post-match presentation.
Trying to control the pressure created by early wickets with a cautious approach or launching a counter-attack to transfer the pressure back on the opposition are a couple of ways to get a team back in the game. But it was an amalgamation of both the methods by Hardik and Pant in their match-winning partnership that has perhaps shown India the solution should they find themselves in such situations in preparation and/or during the ODI World Cup next year.