17 balls. 10 minutes. That’s what it took for the Indian bowlers to wrap up the 3rd Test match on Day 5 at Trent Bridge. And just like that India were back in the series. But what transpired in a week or so that changed the whole complexion of this tour? It was 11th of August 2018 when India were dead and buried at Lords, as they were battered by England inside two and a half days. But Virat Kohli and his men didn’t lose one thing they have in abundance. Belief. We look at five things that led to this turn around at Trent Bridge.
The Opening Statement
The base to any test innings is always found by its openers. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul understood this and stuck a high price tag to their wicket. Shikhar Dhawan, in particular, adapted to the overcast conditions on Day 1 and completely avoided to play his favorite shot through the covers. Instead, he left those juicy full-length balls outside the off stump and tried scoring off cut shots or flicks towards deep mid-wicket. Rahul, who was perplexed at Lords, seemed a lot calmer in Nottingham. As he kept leaving the ball outside the off stump. This resulted in India having a solid 60 run opening partnership in both innings which allowed the middle order to thrive and post 300+ scores.
Game, Set, Catch
Catches win matches. A saying that has been around the cricket world for more than a century now. And in England’s swinging conditions, catches decide series. Ravindra Jadeja dropped Alastair Cook at Southampton in 2014. A spill that saved England’s series and probably Cook’s captaincy as well. But the Indian fielders were in no mood to grant any favors this time around. Debutant Rishab Pant couldn’t have asked for a tougher match as a wicketkeeper. But the 20-year-old keeper from Delhi turned it around to make it a dream debut. He had 7 caught behind dismissals to his name and his one-handed catch of Chris Woakes in the first innings was a thing of beauty.
But it was not just Pant who impressed. India’s kryptonite for ages, slip catching, proved to be India’s secret weapon. KL Rahul, in particular, took 7 catches in slips during the match. It was his catching that turned the match on its head.
B for Bowling
Bowling has not been a term associated with Team India. For decades India have been traditionally considered to a be team with world class batsmen. But this Indian team under Kohli’s captaincy is changing the perception. Recently, they became the first side in the country’s history to get 20 wickets in a match from fast bowlers. When they beat South Africa in Johannesburg this year.
Indian pacers almost pulled it off again here, by taking 19 England wickets over two innings. Led by a resurgent Jasprit Bumrah, the Indian bowling attack switched to a different gear altogether. Ishant Sharma’s opening spell in both innings was impressive but what took the match away from England, in an instance was Hardik Pandya’s fifer in the first innings. In a career-defining spell of 6 overs, Pandya took 5 wickets for 28 runs. These are the stuff that dreams are made of. He was criticized by pundits who saw him neither as a specialist batsman nor a specialist bowler. But this spell from Pandya silenced the critics and brought England on their knees.
In the second innings, Bumrah had already got rid of the England skipper but his spell with the second new ball was awe-inspiring. The Mumbai Indians man took a fifer and got rid of both Jos Butler and Jonny Bairstow in back to back deliveries to effectively finish off the English resistance. India missed Bumrah badly in the first two tests and are now left to wonder, what would it be like if both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bumrah were fit for the entire test series.
The Middle order with a spine
For the first time in this series, Indian batsmen decided to show up and actually stand with Virat Kohli. India had lost Pujara just before lunch on Day 3 to return with scorecard reading 82/3. Indian fans sensed another slump on the cards but Ajinkya Rahane of old had turned up. And this Rahane is a gritty man who values his wicket. Along with Virat, he added 169 runs for the fourth wicket. In the process, India, for the first time in the series, didn’t lose a wicket in an entire session.
If Anderson and co thought they had seen the last of it, they had no idea how wrong they were. In the second innings, they faced the wrath of Cheteshwar ‘the monk’ Pujara. When Pujara is in this kind of mood, he can bat for days and days. His knock of 72 in the second innings helped India post a mammoth target of 521 for England.
The Man who would be King
It is Virat Kohli’s world and we are all just living in it. The man (is he a man?) who came to conquer England did that in the first match itself. Now with his batting, he is winning hearts. English hearts. He missed his century in the first innings by 3 runs but reached his 23rd in the second. That knock of 103 was one for the ages as he was awarded the ‘Man of the Match’ for his 200 runs. Kohli had managed just 135 runs in five matches in the tour of 2014 but now he has managed 440 runs in just three. He is batting on a different level at the moment and this was reflected in the recent ICC rankings where he was crowned as the No.1 Test batsman in the world with 937 points.
This team in Nottingham was unrecognizable from the one that was embarrassed in Lord’s. It was a comeback of astounding proportions, as India won the match by 203 runs to make it 2-1 in the series. But still, England are ahead.
Only one team in the history of test cricket, led by a certain gentleman with a batting average of 99.94, has come from 2-0 down to win a series 3-2. If India under Kohli is dreaming of the promised land, they will have to show grit and character. They performed exceptionally well when their back was against the wall but now they have momentum. They need to carry this forward, work hard and hope for the best.