Matches (29)
Abu Dhabi T10 (5)
Legends League (2)
WI v IRE (EME) (1)
WI v ENG (1)
NZ v PAK (W) (1)
SA v WI (A tour) (1)
Hazare Trophy (18)
Match Analysis

India need a little Pant-Pandya humpty in their ODI approach

Change of approach from top order in third ODI should enthuse India to aim for 350 every time they find themselves batting first

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Two statistics sum up India's much-improved approach to batting first.
The first one has been mentioned often but it tells you how formulaic India have been: this start of 65 for no loss in ten overs was their quickest batting first in a home ODI since the 2011 World Cup.
There was a time when Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had mastered the template of opening in ODIs. They set up to bat long with a sedate start as platform, and kept accelerating. Since they started opening together in the Champions Trophy in 2013, 12 pairs have batted together long enough to be able to aggregate 1000 or more runs together. Only opening pairs from Ireland and Scotland have gone slower than Dhawan and Rohit.
There are reasons for it. Since 2015, India haven't had a great middle order, so the top three have had to prioritise the length of their partnerships over speed. Also they have had the bowlers to restrict the opposition, so they can argue they haven't needed to go quicker.
Both of those contributing factors are changing. Which brings us to the second, a much more incredible stat. Shiva Jayaraman is our in-house genius who can put numbers to approach and intent. He did some digging and found this: since ESPNcricinfo started maintaining ball-by-ball records, there have been over 4000 instances of a team losing three wickets in the space of 60 balls when batting first in ODIs; only once has a team responded with more sixes in the next five overs than the four that India hit in this match in Pune.
Even that instance came in the last five overs of the innings when New Zealand didn't really have a choice but to keep going for it.
To keep on attacking when you lose three quick wickets with more than ten overs to go is rarer. Sanath Jayasuriya's stunning assault on India in the 2008 Asia Cup final is one example. Sri Lanka were 66 for 4 at the end of the 12th over, but Jayasuriya plundered 45 off the next 21 balls he faced in the next four overs. The only other such assault with more than ten overs to go in an innings was by Afghanistan against Canada in 2009-10.
That India embarked on such a stunning and rare counterattack was down to two absolute originals, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya. India had gone from 103 for 0 to 156 for 4 with more than half the innings to go. Pant had already raced away to 31 off 25, but he is also a batsman who has paid with his place in the side for being aggressive when a conservative approach is the need of the hour. He is part of this XI thanks to a blessing-in-disguise injury to another player. It takes special clarity in thought process to respond the way he did: he hit the part-time spinner Liam Livingstone out of the attack, and Pandya joined in by going after the offspinner Moeen Ali.
This was not desperate slogging of batsmen with not much choice but to just give it "some humpty", as Ian Botham famously described how his Headingley miracle of 145 off 149 began. This was a planned assault from batsmen who reasoned they would rather lose with ten overs to spare when going for an above-par score than score below-par and lose in 47 overs. India might have ended with only about a par score in the end, but this partnership of 99 in 11.4 overs meant India would end with a par score even if things went wrong from there.
These are special batsmen, who back themselves to hit out from any situation, and they have the skill to do it in most conditions you encounter in ODI cricket. This is no longer the middle order in the intermediary years that used to struggle to match the power in world cricket. A middle- and lower-middle order of KL Rahul, Pant, Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja deserves a more aggressive top order that will bat nearly as fast as these do if it carries on for too long. And they need all the runs now because the two successful nights for their bowlers in this series have been an exception in a largely barren spell for them.
This win should serve to give India the confidence that they can aim for 350 every time they find themselves batting first. From evidence of this game, India don't need a personnel change but slight tinkering in their approach and then some time to fine-tune that approach. If personnel change is necessary, Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw would be happy to oblige.
But for yet another superlative performance from the returning Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India would have probably lost here too, but they would have done so trying to give themselves a target to bowl at. And even when they failed, they didn't fall short by a lot.
India have batted in a similar manner previously, too, but only when they have been pushed into a corner. This reassurance should make them more inclined to batting with this intent at the start of a series or when they are ahead. We will know for sure in November.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo