Indian batsmen wilted under pressure and lost the plot in the final over after nearly pulling it off as England narrowly beat the hosts by five runs in a thrilling third and final ODI to prevent a clean sweep.
Kedar Jadhav (90 off 75 balls), who had helped India win the first ODI with a superb century, was on the verge of single-handedly taking his side to a memorable win as he hit a six and four in the first two balls of the final over but failed to rattle up the required 16 runs to lose the nail-biting match at the packed Eden Gardens.
All-rounder Ben Stokes, who was hit for four sixes in the fateful World T20 final at the same venue nine months back, had an emotional redemption as he scored 57 and took 3/63 to help England win the nail-biting match.
Chasing 322 for a win, India were cruising along with 27 needed from the final three overs but the match turned in England’s favour in the 48th over with the home side scoring just four runs from it while losing the wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin (1).
India still won the three-match series 2-1 after their victories in the first and second ODIs in Pune and Cuttack while England notched up their first win in this Indian tour. They had lost the five-match Test series 4-0 preceding the ODI contest.
Now the two sides head for the three-match T20 International series beginning on January 26 in Kanpur.
Under hazy conditions with plenty of swing and seam movement on offer, India lost the in-form Virat Kohli for 55, while Yuvraj Singh departed for 45 but Jadhav, who scored a career-best 120 in the first ODI in Pune, kept them in the hunt.
With 16 needed from the last over, Jadhav went deep into his crease to dispatch Chris Woakes over extra-cover for a six and followed it up with a boundary. Drama unfolded as Woakes brilliantly bowled two dot balls and removed Jadhav in the next ball when he holed out straight at deep point.
Six runs off last ball was seemingly a tall ask for Jasprit Bumrah as he could score any run and England clinched their first victory on the tour. It was another 300-plus run affair as the three-match series went into the record books with a total of 2090 runs that eclipsed 1892 runs scored in the Afro-Asia Cup in 2007.
Midway into the run chase, India were struggling at 133/4 in 25.3 overs but Mahendra Singh Dhoni contributed a 36-ball 25 before Hardik Pandya (56 off 43 balls) and Jadhav got into the act with a 104-run partnership from 13.5 overs that kept the hosts in the hunt.
But Stokes once again played his part by cleaning up Pandya with a length ball as the game was down to the wire with India needing a tall ask of scoring 43 runs from the last four overs when Ravindra Jadeja walking in. Pandya returned with a career-best innings of 56 during which he hit four boundaries and two sixes. It was then left to Jadeja (10) and Ashwin (one) to seal the chase but both of them failed to make any valuable contribution.
The onus fell on Jadhav and the 26-year-old Maharashtra batsman was on the verge of taking India home but at the end he could not do it under pressure. He was the ninth and last Indian batsman out as India could only rattle up 316 from 50 overs.
Jadhav hit 12 fours and one six in his 75-ball superlative innings of 90.
Earlier, India’s top order batting did not have the best of the starts.
With all eyes on him after Shikhar Dhawan’s repeated failures, Ajinkya Rahane did little worth to his selection on a day India’s opening problem continued to persist.
Rahane had a forgettable outing of one run from six balls as he was done in by a superb angled delivery from David Willey that swung late and went through his gate to unsettle the off-stump in the second over.
It was a new-look Indian opening pair for the last one-dayer of the series but the result was no different as the Rahane and Lokesh Rahul duo managed just 13. This was a perfect opportunity for Rahul (11) to seize the opportunity but the young Indian opener wasted a third innings in a row.
His intention was clear when he launched Woakes over long-off to get off the mark but Jake Ball ended his stay in 11 balls striking in his first over after replacing Willey who walked off the field after some trouble in his left shoulder.
Down 37/2 in the sixth over, it was yet another familiar challenge for the Indian middle-order and Yuvraj Singh and Kohli took it up.
There was testing time and Yuvraj, when on four, was hit hard on his rib cage from a rising Ball delivery in the 10th over as he looked in pain. But the duo kept going and slowly revived India’s run chase in a slow and steady manner.
Kohli went past 1000 runs as ODI captain to become the fastest to get to the landmark, in just 17 games, beating AB de Villiers’ record when he got to 19 with a single off Ball.
There was some luck element going in his favour too as the Indian skipper was dropped on 35 by Ball when Kohli went in for a pull, looking at the extra bounce but the fielder at long-leg region dropped a sitter.
Without taking any chances, the duo’s approach was to play ground strokes and pick boundaries in every over.