As Jos Buttler reflected on a tricky start to life as England’s new white‑ball captain, and a sparkling century from Rishabh Pant that made it two series defeats to India in the space of a fortnight, he admitted: “We just need to be better.”
It was a simple diagnosis from the man tasked with following Eoin Morgan’s gilded reign. England were again below par with the bat in this one-day international decider and powerless to prevent Pant’s unbeaten 125 chasing down 260 with eight overs to spare for a five-wicket win. India’s supporters, the vocal majority of this sellout crowd, were in clover.
There had been hope for England early on in the second innings, the tourists suffering flashbacks to the 100-run defeat at Lord’s last Thursday when Reece Topley rolled over his form from that six-wicket performance by wiping out India’s top three with the new ball.
But from 72 for four in the 17th over, once Craig Overton had nicked off Suryakumar Yadav with some extra bounce, Pant and Hardik Pandya began brutalising Buttler’s attack in a 133-run stand that ultimately made it 2-1 series wins in both the Twenty20s and the ODIs. Adil Rashid, back to face South Africa on Tuesday, was missed.
After earlier delivering four wickets through seven overs of right‑arm spite, Pandya fell with 55 runs required for a 55-ball 71. But Pant was unperturbed, muscling 15 fours and two sixes overall and finishing the job with a flourish. This was a vintage innings – his first century in 27 ODIs – and the type that could well unlock more.
But while Pant batted like a left‑handed Asterix after a swig of magic potion, and Pandya crackled all day, they did offer chances. Buttler missed a stumping when the former was on 18; while the latter, on six, sent a four over Overton’s head when the Somerset man misjudged its trajectory. As Buttler later put it: “Give good players a second chance and they’ll hurt you. Take those and we go on to win the game.”
It was Buttler who had earlier provided the ballast for England’s 259 all out from 45.4 overs, top-scoring with a gutsy 80-ball 60 from No 5 that overcame two nasty blows to the head from Pandya. This was the only half-century from his side in the series and, though the roads of the recent past have been replaced with pitches offering more for the seamers, the captain put it down to a lack of ODI cricket of late and thus a lack of rhythm.
After losing the toss the England captain arrived with one ball of the powerplay remaining at 66 for three. Mohammed Siraj was in the Indian XI following Jasprit Bumrah’s late back spasm and forced low-key series from Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root – stars of the early Test summer – to end with a pair of ducks.
Bairstow chipped a leading edge to mid-off in the second over, Root was a genuine nick to second slip three balls later. Jason Roy did add some early impetus with a 31-ball 41 but saw this terminated with a spooned catch behind off Pandya when attempting to whip a length ball square with a snap of the wrists.
Ben Stokes was already out there continuing his summer of outright aggression but on 27 tried to charge Pandya. His fellow-all-rounder spotted this, banged the ball in and held a simple return catch. In came Moeen Ali at 74 for four, making 34 in a stand of 75 alongside Buttler that steadied a listing ship.
Moeen was becalmed at first but soon he and Buttler tucked into Yuzvendra Chahal with three heaved sixes. It prompted a smart change by Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja replacing the leg-spinner and, third ball, seeing Moeen glove behind on the sweep to bring the local hero, Liam Livingstone, to the crease.
Jadeja was not done there, however, with two wonderful catches to send both Lancashire men packing in the 37th over and rip the guts out of England’s innings.
Livingstone had just pulled two huge sixes off Pandya into the construction site square of the wicket – the first bursting through some fencing like a cannonball – but a third attempt on 27 picked out Jadeja on the rope. The follow-up to remove Buttler was even better, Jadeja diving at full stretch and deservedly milking the applause.
Pandya had won this battle of egos – “It was just poor batting,” Buttler later admitted – and from 199 for seven in the 37th over, it needed England’s tail to wag through David Willey (18) and Overton (32). The reintroduction of Chahal cut the innings 25 balls short, however, the pair holing out and Topley reading a googly as if it was Esperanto.
Topley at least got the new ball to talk his language, Shikhar Dhawan slicing to backward point, Sharma poking to slip on 17 and Virat Kohli taking his run of international innings without a century to 79 when dabbing at a ball that angled across.
Overall, however, England failed to match Pandya’s spikiness with the ball and could not prevent an innings from Pant that was fittingly breathtaking.