Rahul Dravid: India were 'exceptional' to restrict England 'on a good wicket'

Head coach impressed with the team for coming up with a short-ball strategy and sticking with it

Rahul Dravid, the India coach, heaped praise on his bowlers for setting up victory over England in the series deciding third ODI in Manchester. India, who bowled England out in each of the matches, restricted them to 259 on a “really good wicket” at Old Trafford and then chased it down with 7.5 overs to spare.

“We were fantastic with the ball,” Dravid told the BCCI website. “It was exceptional the way we bowled. That was a really good wicket, and to be able to restrict a team like England to 260 [259], we did fantastically well. We picked up a few wickets upfront, then they built a partnership, but I thought our tactics and strategy was absolutely brilliant.”

India made a conscious effort to bowl short or back of a length, extract bounce, and try to bring the bigger leg side boundary into play. Hardik Pandya, who picked up career-best figures of 4 for 24, bowled only one full delivery in his seven overs, as per ESPNcricinfo’s logs. He also bowled 15 short balls and 24 that were either on a length or short of a length.

Liam Livingstone and Jos Buttler were victims of this short-ball plan, both men falling in the same over to scupper England’s innings.

It all started in the 35th over when Livingstone who was looking to counter-attack, played and missed two short deliveries before nailing a six behind square. Two balls later, he copped a blow on the helmet as Hardik struck to his short-ball plan.

Hardik leaked a six in his next over too, the 37th, but kept hitting the pitch hard and was swiftly rewarded with not one but two quick wickets – Livingstone caught while trying to clear deep square leg and Buttler caught while trying to clear deep midwicket. England had slipped to 198 for 7.

“At the back end, to bowl the short ball with fielders in place, really credit to the team and captain for working on some really good strategies,” Dravid said. “It really came out really well.”

He was also particularly happy with India’s response to a top-order collapse. After the top three were nipped out inside 10 overs, India found saviours in Hardik and Rishabh Pant, whose century stand took the team all but the final few steps to victory.

“The way Hardik and Rishabh responded was superb,” Dravid said. “It was really good to see that under pressure with the series on the line. To put in a partnership like that and bat like the way Rishabh and Hardik did was really heartening for us.”

Hardik, who made a brisk 55-ball 71 to go with his four wickets, felt whatever could go his way did. He laid down the marker early on with the bat, counter-punching his way even as Pant played second fiddle. Hardik struck 10 boundaries in his knock but fell with India 55 away.

“Today was one of those days where whatever I tried, whatever experience have gained, it came to effect,” Hardik said. “I got the most out of whatever opportunity I had. With the ball, it was important to stop runs since their start was fantastic. I was very happy with the ball, but the way I batted, I’m prouder of that because batting is always going to be close to my heart.

“I genuinely felt I was in rhythm. Whatever I wanted to do, I was in control. I would’ve loved to finish the game, but the way Rishabh batted and finished the game, no complaints.”