ON THE RON

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Overseas Test wins are rare, but the current Indian Cricket Team have made it a habit of winning Tests outside India on quite a regular basis. After scripting a famous win at Brisbane, Team India followed that up with a remarkable victory at the Home of Cricket at Lord’s. Now, after a slip up at Leeds, Team India have roared back with another astounding win, this time at the Oval in Surrey, London. The victory was even sweeter than Lord’s purely because India had conquered the Oval after a huge 50-year gap. It was a fabulous Test match for Team India, and in this blog, we will relive the famous win once again. So let us get straight into it!

4th Test, England vs India, The Oval                               

After a drubbing in the previous Test match (an innings and 76 runs defeat), Team India were keen on getting back to winning ways, and it was pleasing for them that the next Test was going to be played in London. At the toss, Virat Kohli’s bad luck with the coin returned and England’s skipper Joe Root opted to have a bowl first, especially with the cloud cover, which meant it was going to be good for bowling. India had to wring in a couple of forced changes due to slight niggles. Thus, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma made way for the return of Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav. And to everyone’s surprise, Ravichandran Ashwin was once again left out of the playing XI. On the other hand, England had a couple of changes as well with Jos Buttler and Sam Curran going out and replaced by Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes.

Day 1

Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul had been giving Team India good starts in the Test series so far, barring the previous Test in Leeds. The conditions were excellent for bowling and despite that, both the openers looked good for the first half an hour. Then all of a sudden, Woakes (who was making a return to the Test side after almost a year), produced a jaffa in his very first over to dismiss Rohit. Soon after, KL Rahul fell and six-odd overs later, Pujara perished too. At 39 for 3, Kohli promoted Ravindra Jadeja at number 5, and despite looking decent in the middle, after adding 30 runs with his skipper, he too perished.

Virat Kohli reached a 50, his second of the series, and looked good to add a few more but a ripping delivery by Robinson, cut short his innings. Rahane and Pant did not last too long either as India were reeling at 127 for 7. Batting once again let India down, and it looked like there will be shot out below 140. But Shardul Thakur had other ideas and counterattacked the English bowlers. With nothing to lose, Shardul just swung his bat, and luckily for him, he was getting the runs. He raced to a 50 in just 32 deliveries. India looked like crossing the 200-run mark, but 3 quick wickets including that of Shardul for 57 off 36, kept India down to 191 runs.

There were still 70-odd minutes of play left in the day, and India were hoping they could eke out a few wickets before stumps. They needed a fast start and Jasprit Bumrah did just that. His second over, and England’s fourth of the innings, saw the Indian pacer castle Rory Burns and four balls later, found the nick of Haseeb Hameed. England were 6 for 2, and India were ecstatic. A partnership of 46 runs between Malan and Root followed, and on the penultimate over of the day, Umesh Yadav produced a magic delivery to knock off the in-form Root’s leg pole. At stumps, England were 3 down for 53 runs on the board.

Day 2

The second day’s play began with India’s tail up. Malan was still out there and looking good, while his partner was nightwatchman Overton. India hoped they could get the nightwatchman early, and that’s exactly what happened. In fact, they did one better as they even managed to dismiss Malan as well. Both wickets went to Umesh Yadav, who was looking menacing. England were reeling at 62 for 5, and home boy Ollie Pope was joined by Bairstow. They needed to build a partnership for England to crawl back into the contest, and that’s what happened. The pitch eased up a bit and runs were coming in boundaries. England hit about 10 boundaries in about 4 overs, including 4 consecutive hits to the fence by Bairstow off the bowling of Shardul.

The runs flowed and the momentum was soon shifting towards England as India’s lead was now just 40 runs. And out of nowhere, Siraj got the ball to nip back a bit, striking Bairstow on the pads. Loud appeal. Finger raised. The 89-run partnership was broken and the Indians were delighted. Bairstow’s wicket gave India hope once again, but Pope looked solid and Moeen Ali started well with a few crisp cover drives. The partnership started to flourish and soon England took the lead. They crossed the 200 runs mark and in the meantime, Pope recorded a fighting 50. Just when India’s shoulders were drooping, Moeen stepped out to Jadeja and went for a wild hoick, only to mistime it and see the ball land in Rohit’s hands at cover. 222 for 7 was the score, and out walked Chris Woakes.

Another partnership was developing and Pope was looking good for a three figures mark. But the local lad chopped one onto his stumps to end his innings on 82. Robinson was dismissed soon after as England were 255 for 9. With just one wicket in hand, Woakes decided to take much of the strike and started to deal in boundaries. The lead was swelling as Woakes continued his excellent return to the Test side. He raced to a well made 50 and the lead swelled to 99 runs before Woakes was run out after trying to steal a bye in order to retain strike.

India’s second innings began with 99 runs in arrears. They needed a solid start, and with just 16-odd overs left in the day, they hoped the openers would see it out. A few oohs and aahs, edges, dropped catches, but India’s openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were still out in the middle. They managed to see out the 16 overs as India reached 43 for no loss at stumps on day 2.

Day 3

The first hour was going to be crucial for India and their openers. Thankfully for them, they managed to see out the English bowlers and looked set to overhaul the deficit without losing a wicket. Just when things looked good, Anderson produced a peach of a delivery that kissed KL Rahul’s bat and found the safe hands of Johnny Bairstow. KL Rahul was distraught as he was dismissed for 46 with India’s score on 83, still 16 runs adrift. Pujara walked in at 3, and right from the word go, he looked busy in the middle, which was a good sign for India. Rohit and Pujara made use of the flattest wickets on offer, as runs flowed. India took the lead and went beyond that as both Rohit and Pujara looked classy. On 94 runs, Rohit Sharma stepped out to a Moeen Ali delivery and sent the ball sailing into the crowds. What a way to bring up your maiden Test ton overseas, said a commentator on air.

The partnership flourished and crossed the 150-mark. England were out of ideas, and thankfully for them, the new ball was due. They took it right away, and struck gold in the very first ball itself. Rohit went early with his shot, and the ball went staight into the fielder’s hands. The 153-run partnership was broken and Rohit was dismissed for 127 runs. Two balls later, Pujara got a jaffa from Robinson and was dismissed for 61. From 236 for 1, India were now 237 for 3. The match turned on its head, and it was thanks to Ollie Robinson and the new cherry!

Jadeja walked in at 5, just like he did in the first innings. On the other hand, Virat Kohli was new to the crease. Both batters were under immense pressure, but they were eager to grind it out in the middle. Kohli played a couple of exquisite cover drives and just when the partnership was looking to flourish, bad light intervened play. There was still 15-odd overs left in the day’s play, but the light wasn’t good and early stumps was called for. India ended the day on 270 for 3, leading by 171 runs.

Day 4

The match was pretty much in the balance, and day four was probably going to give us an idea as to which side would edge ahead. Jadeja and Kohli did well to negate the first 45 minutes. The partnership crossed 50 runs as India slowly started to regain the upper hand. England introduced Woakes into the attack and the Warwickshire lad pinned Jadeja right in front to send him back for 17. Next over, Woakes pinned Rahane for a blob. And just like that, the momentum shifted toward England. The lead was a mere 197 runs and India were now 5 down. But Kohli was still in the middle and was looking like his old self. And they still had a bit of batting left in the tank, so all was not lost for them. But 6 overs later, England and Moeen Ali picked up the prized wicket of Virat Kohli for 44 to dent India further. 312 for 6 was the score, and England were on top at this moment. Pant was there in the middle along with first innings hero Shardul Thakur.

India were in desperate need of a long partnership, and Pant and Shardul were eager to stick around. Pant was cautious while Shardul played his shots every now and then. The partnership crossed 50 runs and every run scored by Shardul and Pant was cheered by the Indian supporters. As the runs came by, the England camp was looking a bit nervous. Soon, Shardul reached another 50 in the match, and both he and Pant recorded a partnership of 100 valuable runs for the team. Root decided to get himself on, and he struck gold as he managed to find the edge of Shardul’s bat. He was dismissed for a crucial 60. Pant managed to get to a 50, but soon perished while trying to play an aggressive shot. Umesh and Bumrah got together and scored crucial 20-odd runs each as India crossed 450 runs. They were eventually dismissed for 466 runs, thereby setting England 368 runs to go 2-1 up in the series.

The pitch was still excellent for batting, and thus, most believed that all results were still possible. England openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed walked out to bat. There was about 30 plus overs remaining in the day. While England hoped their openers would see out the day, India on the other hand, were eager to get 2-3 wickets before the close of play. Hameed and Burns looked good, very good indeed. They managed to find the odd boundary whenever possible. Overs went by, but India were unable to create a chance. The English openers looked very solid and after 32 overs, they were 77 for no loss as stumps was called. India did not manage to get a wicket, much to England’s delight. Still, 291 runs were there to play with, as both teams headed back with all results still possible.

Day 5

A fascinating Test match was heading towards an enthralling finish. England needed 291 runs on the final day whereas India needed all 10 wickets. Both were eager to win and take a 2-1 series lead with just one Test remaining. India started the day with Umesh and Bumrah, while the England openers were eager to play out the first hour. After 8 overs, skipper Kohli tossed the ball to Shardul in hope that the man with the golden arm would strike gold for the team. And the Mumbaikar did not disappoint as he unleashed a peach of a delivery that found the edge of Rory Burns who had just reached his 50. England lost their first wicket with the score on 100. Perhaps that was the opening India were looking for?

Malan joined Haseeb in the middle, and Jadeja was given the ball so that he could make use of the rough outside the left hander’s off stump. Pressure was being created by the bowlers, and in order to release that pressure, Hameed played an attacking stroke which went straight to Siraj at mid-off, but he fluffed the chance. Jadeja was gutted. The Indian supporters were distraught. A few overs later, Haseeb tapped the ball and called for a quick single. Malan responded, but an agile Mayank Agarwal (sub fielder) swooped in and threw the ball to Pant while being off balance. The keeper did the rest and replays suggested that Malan was a few inches short. A gift for India, and they grabbed it with both hands. England went into lunch at 131 for 2.

The post lunch session was probably going to give us a fair idea as to where this Test match is heading. Jadeja pitched the ball in the rough, it spun, missed Hameed’s bat, and crashed into the stumps. A third wicket for India as the crowd went berserk. India surely had an opening here, so Kohli gave the ball to his premier fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah. What transpired thereafter was sheer brilliance by the Indian pacer. He castled Pope and then Bairstow, and almost had the better of Joe Root as well. The fiery spell (6 overs, 3 maidens, and 2 wickets) tilted the match in India’s favour. Jadeja eked out Moeen once again in the match as England went from 141 for 2 to 147 for 6 in no time. The match shifted heavily in India’s favour, as they were now just 4 wickets away.

A mini partnership by Root and Woakes raised hopes for the English supporters, but Shardul came back and sent Joe Root back. And that was probably the final nail in the coffin. It was not a matter of time before India wrapped up the remaining 3 wickets. Umesh Yadav came back into the attack, picked up the remaining 3 wickets, and India won by 157 runs. Doing so, they managed to conquer the Oval after 50 long years.

Final Thoughts

It was incredible to see India win another overseas Test this year. The hammering in Leeds was a mere blip as India roared back in style to take a sensational 2-1 series lead. With just one Test remaining, India have managed to retain the Pataudi Trophy, but if you know Virat Kohli, he will be eager to finish on a high and win the series. So off we go to Manchester, with high hopes and history in the making. Lets see what unfolds!

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