Pune, Mar 28 (PTI) Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya hit stroke-filled half-centuries but Indian lower-order caved in meekly to settle for a below-par 329 against England in the third and final ODI here on Sunday.
Pant's sparkling knock of 78 off 62 balls was well supported by Hardik (64 off 44 balls) but India lost their last four wickets for a mere eight runs to finish at least 30 runs short on another batting belter.
Pant, during his career-best knock plundered four maximums and five boundaries, while Hardik had five fours and four sixes during their 99-run stand for the fifth wicket.
However Krunal Pandya's (25 off 34 balls) serious limitations while facing express pace was exposed by Mark Wood (3/34) as India lost the momentum during the final 10 overs despite brilliant 103 run opening stand inside 15 overs between Rohit Sharma (37; 6x4) and Shikhar Dhawan (67 off 56; 10x4).
The senior Pandya at times was finding it difficult to bring his bat down in time while facing the pace of Woods and didn't get a single boundary consuming nearly six overs of the innings.
It was a day when India's top order was troubled by English spinners with Adil Rashid's (2/81 in 10 overs) googlies in successive overs removing Rohit and Dhawan.
Skipper Virat Kohli (7) tried to rock back and play a cut shot only to be bowled by a Moeen Ali off-break.
KL Rahul was sent back by a friendly full-toss from Liam Livingstone leaving India in a spot of bother at 157 for 4 just before the hafway stage of the innings.
However Pant started off from where he had left in the last game and ditto for Hardik as they took apart Rashid by reading wrong 'uns well.
Hardik smashed three sixes off Ali which forced the captain to take him out of attack as 200 came in the 30th over.
Pant brought up his third ODI fifty with a towering six and was in his elements as he took on both the pacers and spinners and so was Hardik.
When it looked like the duo would go berserk, Curran removed Pant as Jos Buttler took a stunning reflex catch to his left with his body balance tilted towards right. And then Ben Stokes cleaned up Hardik as the hosts again slipped to 276/6.
A quick fire 30 off 21 balls by Shardul Thakur was the only consolation in an otherwise poor show by lower order. PTI KHS KHS KHS