Rejuvenated India Shock England

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: India captain Virat Kohli applauds the fans after day 5 of the 3rd Test Match between England and India at Trent Bridge on August 22, 2018 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Rejuvenated India Shock England

Not even India’s most ardent fans would have predicted what transpired last week in Trent Bridge. Perhaps not even Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli themselves. Sides aren’t supposed to come back after being 2-0 down in a test series, not even at home. Not when they have been hammered in nearly two days flat at the Mecca of Cricket, Lord’s. But that’s exactly what Indian team achieved here at Trent Bridge.

Perhaps because India were so poor at Lord’s it led England to an extremely comfortable place. So much so that seeing clouds overhead and live grass they sent India to bat first without any hesitation. Its easy to blame Joe Root, the England skipper, now but any captain would have done so, expecting their two most celebrated fast bowlers to run over India in no time. Any captain but Virat. At the toss he said he wanted to bat first anyway, he stressed on playing with freedom and putting runs on the board. That’s exactly how his openers played, with freedom. They put on India’s second 50 runs partnership of the series. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul mixed caution with more freedom than they had exhibited anytime in the series.
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It wasn’t just mind, there were technical changes to be seen as well. Shikhar Dhawan was playing the ball as late as ever, Rahul seemed less committed on the front foot. There was even a square cut played off James Anderson albeit for no runs. It showed India had worked on themselves, that they weren’t going to be roll over without a fight again. But batting in England is different kettle of fish, you are never in. Dhawan and Rahul soon fell to a very good ball and Cheteshwar Pujara for some reason decided to unleash a hook shot few balls before lunch leading to an embarrassing dismissal.

The good work was in danger of being undone, at 82-3 at lunch it seemed like a familiar story of Kohli or bust. But then India’s most reliable batsman overseas decided to step up; Ajinkya Rahane talked about his attacking instinct and played in the same manner. It was almost Melbourne 2014 again with Virat and Rahane batting at full flow. They put in a very good partnership and were taking India to a very strong position. But as soon as they were dismissed, innings was over quite quickly, and India were left with a competitive 329 rather than a commanding score.

But as they say in England, if you put up more than 300 runs on the board in the first innings chances are you will stay competitive for rest of the game. India however, didn’t begin well again with the new ball. They have tended to start bad and then gradually improve while bowling in Tests. England had raced away to their 50-run partnership with both Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings looking fluent. Mohammed Shami and Jaspirit Bumrah had sprayed the ball around. Perhaps Ishant Sharma should have been given the new ball. He proved to be effective immediately by dismissing Cook and then the flood gates opened. They opened like never before for Hardik Pandya who rattled England in only 6 overs by picking up his 5 wickets. England were dismissed for 161.
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England’s low score meant India got the lead of 168 runs. It was a huge lead. It was a decisive lead. Nobody was in doubt thereon about the result of the match. But this was India overseas, nothing was sure unless we witnessed it first-hand. However, India had no doubts in their mind. Their mind was freed up further by the lead which was clear by the strokes Rahul and Dhawan played in the second innings. There was an unimaginable whip shot played on the leg side by Rahul of Anderson,  there were cut shots played by Dhawan off Stokes. Both the batsmen gave India their second consecutive 50 run partnership in the game and from there on it was simply the case of batting England out of the game.

India did exactly that. In the process, they got an invaluable knock from Pujara whom India badly wanted to get back in form. He scored a responsible 72 and while that hundred in England still eludes him there were encouraging signs. Virat Kohli completed what he missed in the first innings, an effortless century. By the end of his innings he had scored 440 runs at an average of 73. This in the series which was has been completely dominated by bowlers. It has been simply a phenomenal series for Kohli one that safeguards his position as one of the modern greats of the game.

England were eventually set the target of 521 with two full days to play and 9 overs on the third evening. While England safely negotiated the 9 overs, Ishant Sharma immediately hurt them in the next morning by dismissing Keaton Jennings. Alastair Cook too was dismissed cheaply followed by Joe Root. It seemed like game would be over by Tea on day 4. But Jos Butler and Ben Stokes had other plans. They stretched India, at one stage no wickets had fallen for almost 5 hours. Just as England were starting to believe Jos Butler was dismissed by a familiar nemesis in Bumrah. It was a fine knock by Butler one that would have given him a huge amount of self-belief. However, as soon as the partnership was broken, it seemed as if England’s resistance was broken too. England were soon 9 down and only the formalities of Indian victory was left at the end of Day 4.

Formalities were completed in ten minutes on Day 5 and India completed one of their famous victories overseas. India haven’t won that many tests on these shores, in fact in this century they have only won 4. But something is changing in Indian cricket, this lot don’t like to take it lying down for too long. It was proven in South Africa, it has been proven here again. While the parallels with Perth 2008 has been made Indian fans would be hoping to see a different result to the series this time. Teams are simply not meant to comeback after being 2-0 down not anymore not ever. But signs are there, times are changing and this team won’t be satisfied with another solitary win overseas.

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