As Umesh Yadav found a healthy edge of James Anderson’s bat to end the fourth Test Match between India and England at the Oval, the jubilation enveloped one of the oldest Cricket grounds in the world. India had finally managed to win at The Oval after a gap of fifty years.
The current Indian Test Cricketers are certainly unique in so many ways. They often find themselves in embarrassing situations in a Test Series but they invariably stage a remarkable comeback. It happened in the Boxing Day Test at Australia after the ignominy of getting bowled out for a paltry 36 at Adelaide. It has happened again, the ghosts of Headingley were buried in an aggressive and clinical fashion only a few overs after Tea on the final day of the fourth Test Match.
Where did England lose the plot?
Apart from a terrific display of fast bowling from the Indian seamers, England was guilty of some shoddy Cricket on the final day. The run out of Dawid Malan after England had scored 100 for the opening wicket was a classic case of hara-kiri. Even in the first innings, England had squandered the opportunity of taking a match-winning lead.
On the fourth evening of the Test match, Umesh Yadav lofted Chris Woakes for a huge six. By that time, the English bowlers were deflated and were taken aback by the massive rearguard action by the Indian batsmen. More importantly, it reminded everybody that the Oval pitch was not only benign but also unresponsive. India’s final score of 466 in the second innings by no means guaranteed them a victory to secure a 2-1 lead.
So, England’s score of 77/0 at stumps on Day 4 hinted at a long struggle ahead for the Indian bowlers just like their English counterparts. Even, Michael Atherton asserted on air that England could hunt down the huge target of 368 runs if they had wickets in hand. Considering the frailty of England’s batting, the suggestion by Atherton seems ludicrous in hindsight.
Ravi Shastri, the current Indian head coach comes across as a cocky individual whose tall claims about the Indian Cricket team are sometimes a butt of ridicule. But, one would not argue about Shastri’s knowledge of the game and his tremendous insight. In one of his interviews, he had claimed that the current bunch of Indian fast bowlers have the ability to take the pitch completely out of the equation. It was a bold statement at that time. But, as Jasprit Bumrah bowled a hostile spell to break the back of England’s batting line up on a great batting wicket, Shastri would have had a smirk on his face while seeing his judgment being vindicated on foreign soil.
Jasprit Bumrah has a knack of bowling unplayable deliveries; his outstanding spell after Lunch on Day 5 once again reaffirmed his position as a world class pace bowler. The deliveries that he bowled to Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow would make Waqar Younis and Dale Steyn raise a toast for Bumrah, the fastest Indian pacer to take 100 Test wickets. Shane Warne’s voice on air was splintered with vigour and enthusiasm as the English batsmen looked like the proverbial ‘cat on a hot tin roof’ while facing him. His changes in length and adaptability to use the old ball perfectly swung the match in India’s favour.
The final day promised so much for England. At least, a draw could have made Joe root’s men hopeful of winning the series at Manchester, where the teams are likely to encounter perfect English conditions. Instead, England has only two days to lick their wounds after a soul- crunching defeat.
Many pundits have harped about the lack of quality in the batting department for both India and England. But, Rohit Sharma has definitely led a batting revival for India as Rahul, Pujara, Pant and even Kohli seem to be getting back their lost touch. For the hosts, Root seems to be the only batsman who has a clear mind while facing the menacing Indian bowlers. Even as Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed scored half centuries, but one can hardly draw inspiration from all the other batsmen. India has managed to steer past their weaknesses stolidly and must be really confident of winning the series at Manchester.
As Shardul Thakur’s Lordly status reign supreme on social media, he has been doing Lordly things on the field. His twin half centuries in both the innings of the fourth Test match bailed India out of trouble. His crucial partnership with Umesh Yadav in the first innings and with Rishabh Pant in the second innings reaffirmed his plucky nature, ingrained by playing First Class Cricket for Mumbai. He has managed to dismiss Root two times in the two Test Matches that he has been part of. As Root played onto his stumps on Day 5 off his bowling, India’s victory was a foregone conclusion by then.
Hail Lord Thakur!
Umesh Yadav is one of those Cricketers who has never rose to the occasion and thus never won the confidence of captains. The sight of a young Umesh Yadav dismantling the stumps of Ricky Ponting at Melbourne in 2012 is still etched in the memories of many. But, his inconsistencies and tryst with injuries have made him a tragic hero in Indian Cricket. But, on the final day of the Oval Test, one saw a much improved Umesh Yadav who supported Bumrah splendidly.
In hindsight, the victory pays testimony to India’s spirit and ability to bounce back from impossible situations. If only, some of the selection issues are sorted out, it won’t be long before we see India defeating England in their own backyard and closer to world dominance.