IND vs ENG: 18 till I die – then Pant goes bonkers

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Until his 24th delivery, Rishabh Pant had not hit a single boundary. And the first one was an indication that he had had enough of reining it in. He charged out to Craig Overton, had a heave, and outside-edged the ball past the wicketkeeper for four. Off his 27th delivery, he would provide England a much bigger opening.

He jumped down the track to Moeen Ali and swung with all his might, so much so that he was off the ground for an instant before completing the bat-swing and falling back on the pitch to try and make his ground. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for England, Jos Buttler had failed to collect the ball. He was on 18 then.

It has been somewhat incongruous that Pant had already scored five Test hundreds, and had managed none across ODIs and T20Is. After the reprieve from Buttler, he would go on to correct that anomaly in Manchester on Sunday, hammering an unbeaten 125 off 113 deliveries that gave India the ODI series over England 2-1. In an indication of how well he paced his innings, Pant took 71 balls for his fifty, and just 35 to move to the hundred thereafter.

Pant first revived India from 72 for 4 in a 133-run partnership with Hardik Pandya. After the all-rounder fell with another 55 needed, Pant proceeded to absolutely flatten England. Having played the situation – as Pandya would say later – all along and turned it around for his team, Pant decided to have fun; he carved David Willey for five successive fours to bring India to the brink of victory, and then teased everyone present at Old Trafford by tapping a single off the last ball of the over. He reverted to typical Pant style, ending the game with a reverse-swept four off Joe Root.

He has cracked the big-innings puzzle in Test cricket long ago. But the fine line between attack and self-destruction that he straddles in the longer format has proved to be finer, and harder to sustain, in white-ball cricket. We see this a lot in T20, where he can go into a bit of a shell and then suddenly try to break the shackles, only to give it away.

Not that it couldn’t have happened on Sunday, but he put that Buttler chance behind him and applied himself to the task at hand. Not as eye-catching as the late volley of boundaries, but perhaps more important, were the calm dabs square of the wicket and the hard running between the wickets with Pandya. Even when he was squeezed for width, he found a way to rotate the strike, like when he hit the ball hard into the ground and got it to bounce over point.

A maiden white-ball hundred in a chase to seal an away series; as Pant said after the game, “Hopefully I remember (this century) for the rest of my life.”





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