Cricket-Bairstow, Stokes blast England to series-levelling win over India

Cricket - Second One Day International - India v England - Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune, India - March 26, 2021 England's Jonny Bairstow celebrates reaching his century REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

PUNE, India (Reuters) - Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes displayed audacious strokeplay during a 175-run stand against India in the second one-day international to help England chase down a steep 337-run target with ease for a series-levelling six-wicket victory on Friday.

Opening batsman Bairstow smashed seven sixes and 11 fours in his knock of 124 while Stokes hit 10 sixes and four fours before falling one short of a deserved century as the touring side reached their target with 39 balls to spare.

India batsman KL Rahul earlier continued to make the most of his return to form with a century, anchoring the innings with a classy 108 to help the hosts reach 336-6 after England's stand-in captain Jos Buttler won the toss and decided to field.

England made three changes to the side that lost the opening ODI by 66 runs, drafting in Dawid Malan, debutant Liam Livingstone and fast bowler Reece Topley.

India's total never looked out of reach for England's batting lineup after Bairstow and Jason Roy set the tone for the chase with an opening stand of 110.

The pair looked unstoppable and were only separated when Roy was run out for 55 following a sharp piece of fielding from Rohit Sharma.

That brought Bairstow, who hit his 11th hundred, and Stokes together and the duo went on a boundary-hitting spree, leaving the Indian bowlers looking shell-shocked on the field.

Stokes' 52-ball knock ended when he was caught behind while attempting a pull shot off seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Fast bowler Prasidh Krishna then caused a wobble by sending back Bairstow and Buttler, who was leading England in the absence of the injured Eoin Morgan, in one over to reduce the tourists to 287-4.

Yet Malan and Livingstone stood firm to see their side through and ensured that Sunday's third and final ODI will decide the series.

Rahul kept his place in the 50-over side despite scoring 16 runs in four innings during the Twenty20 series.

The right-hander repaid that faith with his fifth ODI hundred, following up on his unbeaten 62 in the last match, and celebrated his century by closing his eyes and using his fingers to cover his ears.

Rahul hit seven fours and two sixes in his 114-ball knock and later said his cryptic celebration was to signal his way of shutting out criticism.

India captain Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant supported Rahul with half-centuries.

Kohli was dropped on 35 by Buttler off leg-sinner Adil Rashid and was instead out on 66 when the wicketkeeper managed to hold on to another edge off the same bowler.

That brought Pant to the crease in his first ODI since January, 2020 and the diminutive left-hander hit a blistering 77 from 40 balls that included three fours and seven sixes.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Toby Davis)

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