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4th Test, Day 5: On a flat, sleepy Oval track India’s pace power blows away England

India beat England by 157 runs to take a 2-1 lead in five-match series on Day 5 of the fourth test at The Oval.

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New Delhi: Two full, reverse-swinging deliveries defined not just this win at The Oval, but the rise of India as fast bowling power to blow away the best at their home on the flattest of pitches.

Two pre-lunch wickets, with Shardul Thakur bending one away to find Rory Burns’ edge to break the 100-run opening partnership and then Dawid Malan’s runout had kicked the door open for India. Post-lunch, Virat Kohli tossed the wearying ball to Jasprit Bumrah. He sealed the game in a brilliant six-over spell.

As Kohli explained after the match, the team had worked really hard at ‘making’ the ball. You shine and rub one side (all legitimately of course) so much that one side gets heavier in search of reverse swing, he said. Bumrah asked for the ball as he’d seen it reversing. Soon enough one toe-cruncher had gone reverse swinging through Ollie Pope’s chronically suspect defence. A good way to get his 100th wicket.

Yet another, to similarly castle Johnny Bairstow was even deadlier. The Test was by now sealed for India. Later, as Shardul Thakur’s golden arm caught the big fish Joe Root playing on, it was all over barring the tail. Ravindra Jadeja, meanwhile, stuck to his line aiming for the ‘rough’ even outside the right-hander’s leg stump. His victims were the stubborn Haseeb Hameed who played the wrong line and saw the ball turn, evade his stretched defensive bat and crash into his stumps. His other victims was his usual bunny Moeen Ali, edging to leg trap.

It was India’s first win at The Oval since Ajit Wadekar’s team in 1971. It was also the first time that they won a Test after losing the toss, being asked to bat first, and being all out for under 200.

It was not a batsmen or a bowlers’ win, but a synchronised effort of one of the greatest Indian teams of all times. How the Indian squad rolled England over on a placid pitch on day five signifies the depth and quality of its bowlers.

Through the crests and troughs so far in the series, India has consistently dominated Joe Root’s team. The visitors dominated seven of the 12 sessions in the Oval Test, while 21 sessions (out of 49) as a whole in the series.

Domino effect

Going into the lunch, England skipper Joe Root stood steady alongside Haseeb Hameed, a set batter with a second lease of life granted by Mohammed Siraj who dropped a sitter off a Ravindra Jadeja delivery.

But the first session was just the teaser of a blockbuster script that was going to unfold at The Oval.

What began with the fall of the third wicket (Hameed) at 141 for England turned out to be the turning point as the next three batters did not even have a chance to bounce back, thanks to off-spinner Jadeja and pacer Jasprit Bumrah.

The damage was done. Even Root, the best Test batsman in the world, could not resurrect his team. The England skipper was just a mute spectator at the other end as wickets fell.

Cometh the hour, cometh “Lord” Thakur. He bowled a well-disguised slower, short delivery and had Root mistiming it on his stumps. It was also sweet revenge for the second innings when the English skipper had taken Thakur’s wicket.

After Bumrah, Jadeja and Thakur, it was on to Umesh Yadav’s broad shoulders to bring the match home. After scalping Chris Woakes at the cusp of tea break, he blew away two tail-enders —Craig Overton and James Anderson — with the second new ball.

On the last day, England were bowled out for 210.

Also read: Not just Anderson, Virat Kohli needs a cure for his Moeen Ali mental block as well, Oval Test shows

Man of the match

As the batsmen rose to the occasion on day 4 of The Oval Test, led by the ‘Hitman’ Rohit Sharma, the Indian bowlers delivered big time on day 5 with each bowler chipping in at crucial junctures to ensure a win for the visitors.

Rohit was declared the Man of the Match, and rightly so, for his emphatic 127-run maiden overseas century, putting India right on the top from the penultimate day of the fourth Test. Shardul Thakur with his wickets and two rear-guard fifties was a good candidate too. But only one can win on a day.

Jadeja, a crucial part of the ensemble cast, bowled 30 overs (the most in second innings) giving just 50 runs, ensuring the English batters were restricted. Many would hope for the controversy around his selection over the spin legend Ravichandran Ashwin in the playing XI could possibly die after his performance at the Kennington Oval.

Bumrah overtakes Kapil Dev

With the lowest economy (1.23) of the lot, Bumrah scripted history overtaking Kapil Dev to become the fastest Indian pacer to bag 100 wickets in just 24 Tests. In contrast, the former Indian captain took 25 Tests.

Bumrah picked four wickets in this Test, 18 in the series but it was his yorkers that impressed fans and critics alike. With many comparing him to legendary pacer Wasim Akram’s spell against England in 1992.

With an average of 22, the Indian pacer bowled like he wanted a wicket every ball. Even when the pacer did not take wickets, he was busy closing the game for his team.

With the series finale ahead and a lead of 2-1, India would eye the trophy at Manchester. England will meanwhile have some selection problems. Especially with their bowling and a tiring, over-worked Anderson.

Brief scores: India 191 and 466 all out (Rohit Sharma 127, Cheteshwar Pujara 61, Chris Woakes 83/3); England 290 and 210 (Haseeb Hameed 63, Rory Burns 50, Umesh Yadav 60/3, Jasprit Bumrah 27/2).

Also read: Sachin Tendulkar + Rahul Dravid equals New Zealand’s latest cricket debutant, Rachin Ravindra


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