Hardik Pandya joined the party at the end as India made 126 in the last ten overs
Innings India 336 for 6 (Rahul 108, Pant 77, Kohli 66, Topley 2-50) vs England
Though both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma both fell inside the powerplay, India’s innings had a familiar ring to it: start slowly, accumulate in the middle overs, and explode at the end. KL Rahul, who was promoted to No.4 in the injury-enforced absence of Shreyas Iyer, anchored the innings with a hundred before Rishabh Pant shellacked a 28-ball fifty on his return to ODI cricket. A maiden ODI hundred seemed to be within Pant’s grasp until Jason Roy snaffled a smart catch at deep backward point. The Pandya brothers then joined the big-hitting bash in the end overs to leave England needing 337 to stay afloat in the series.
By the time Sharma picked out short fine leg in the ninth over, India were 37 for 2. Hardik Pandya and Pant provided a robust counterpoint to it by pounding as many runs off a mere two overs at the slog. All in all, India made 126 runs off their last ten overs, and by the end of the first innings, the England side looked fried on a near-40 degree day in Pune.
Rahul lugged 68 of his 108 runs through singles and doubles. He cautiously navigated the spinners and it was only after passing fifty that he hit over the top. When Adil Rashid tossed up a legbreak outside off, Rahul swiftly forayed down the track and launched him over the sightscreen for six.
Curiously, England held Rashid back until the 20th over despite his success against Kohli. He drew a healthy nick in his second over, but Jos Buttler, the stand-in captain and keeper, closed his gloves too quickly and dropped it. Kohli was on 35 at that point.
After getting to a fifty of his own, Kohli also hit Rashid over the top, clattering a wrong’un over square leg for six.
It was second-time lucky for Buttler when Rashid coaxed the outside edge once again, this time with a shorter, zippier legbreak in the 32nd over. The error cost England only 31 runs, but then it brought Pant to the crease. The left-handed closed out Rashid’s spell with a powerful slog-swept six over midwicket. Moeen Ali, who had a rough winter, put in a fine shift, returning 0 for 47 in his 10 overs. He conceded just one boundary in his spell, but that was down to a fumble from Ben Stokes at extra-cover.
Soon after, Pant went into a six-hitting spree. He pumped Sam Curran for a one-handed six and then dished out the same punishment to his elder brother Tom, scything him away over the off side with just one hand. Stokes wasn’t spared either and when Pant aimed for another six off Tom, he holed out to sweeper cover.
The Pandyas had their share of fun as well: Hardik hit 35 off 16 and Krunal 12 off nine. Despite taking some pasting at the end, returning left-arm seamer Reece Topley was the pick of the bowlers for England, finishing with 2 for 50 in his eight overs. He was particularly impressive with the new ball often landing it on the seam and gleaning subtle movement off the pitch.
After hitting an in-between length against Dhawan, he pushed one across him from a fuller length to have him nicking off for 4 off 17 balls. Rohit, who had got out chasing what might have been an off-wide wide in the first match, tickled a leg-stump half-volley from Sam straight to short fine leg in the second. Topley returned at the death to bounce out Hardik with a knuckle-ball variation at the death, but there wasn’t much to cheer about for England otherwise in the first innings.
Deivarayan Muthu is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo