An analysis of India's performance in England so far and the road ahead
After the Edgbaston El Clásico and an eye opener at Lord's, Team India are back in business with an emphatic win against hosts England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. With nothing to lose at Nottingham, every individual had shown the "accountability" their coach Ravi Shastri had asked for prior to the start of the 3rd test.
After having their backs against the wall, Virat's men have made a 'statement' which will conjure "fear", especially in their batsman's mind according to legendary Sunil Gavaskar. From 2013-2015, in their previous tours to the SENA (SA, ENG, NZ, AUS) countries, India have failed miserably as Lord's was the only test they won out of 13 test they played. They lost 1-0 to SA(2 tests),1-0 to NZ(2 tests), 3-1 to Eng(5 tests) and 2-0 to Aus(4 tests). This is due to their 'lack of ability' to pick twenty wickets to win a test match which haunted them in their previous eras also.
Virat Kohli who took over the reigns from MSD as Test Captain in Sydney in 2014, along with the team management had addressed this problem with a five-bowler theory for their mammoth home season. It returned rich rewards as they went onto win nine consecutive series under Kohli and also the reigning number one test ranking side in the World. Not only they won, they won them in a never seen before authoritative attitude.
Best pace attack India has ever had?
Again, those testing conditions welcomed them in 2018 with the SA tour. Until the Trent Bridge test, they had played six overseas tests and won two when compared to 1 out of 13 in their previous cycle of SENA tours. Interestingly, those two wins came in the 3rd test of the series after losing the first two. And it is their bowling department which played a monumental effort in these two triumphs.
Earlier this year at Wanderers, the Indian pacers took the wickets all the twenty South African batsmen which is the first time they have done in their 86 year test history. And they again took 19-wickets in the 3rd test against England, which is their second highest. Totally, they preyed 49 out of 60 wickets in SA and till now they accounted for 38 out of 47 Englishmen. This spell-bounding stat will probably make this attack as the best ever they had. But they have to continue their fine showings in the remainder of the series and the Australia tour later this year to be the best pace attack in a country where the batsmen and slow-bowlers are regarded as 'demigods'.
*Jasprit Bumrah had two five-wicket hauls in four tests he played.
Batting conundrums finally vanished
After being jolted by the English pace attack in bowling friendly cloudy conditions at Lord's, Indian batsmen finally showed some 'intent' their captain had pleaded for, ever since the series loss against South Africa. Prior to the Trent Bridge test, in five overseas Tests, Kohli had four 50-plus scores and the rest of the team managed only two (Hardik's 93 at Capetown & Pujara's 50 at Joburg). But in the third test alone, along with Hardik(52) & Pujara(72), Rahane(81) also had his first 50-plus score and the result is there for us to cherish.
The openers faced a lot of criticism with two 0 partnerships at Lord's. However, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul stitched two 50-plus runs partnerships in both the innings which is only the second time they were able to do in the gruelling overseas conditions. In contrast to the 2013-2015 period, it is their batting which had let them down. From openers to the no.5 position, India had a settled top five and with Pant, Hardik Pandya, and R Ashwin at 5,6 and 7 respectively, at least for now their batting looks more intimidating than the hosts.
With finally everyone finding their mojo and having spent some time in the middle, they can fancy their chances to outscore the English batsmen in the remainder of the series. After a lot of shuffling, each player now knows their individual roles and they need not have to worry about their playing XI chances unlike in the previous tests.
Ghosts of 2014 - Buried
Virat Kohli, with his batting prowess, mesmerized the English crowds and it will be a daunting task for the English bowlers to stop this run machine. He already has scored 440 runs in the series with two tons and will look add more to his tally. No other batsman managed even a total of 200 runs. He is now the world's best Test batsman with 937 rating points in the ICC Rankings and with two more tests to go, there are enough records to add to his already illustrious career.
He has the most runs as a captain in Aus(2014), SA(2018), and Eng(2018). While leading the team, he scored 16 tons in 68 innings only behind Ricky Ponting(25) and Graeme Smith(19).
Kohli is 10 rating points away from second places Steve Smith(947) and 24 from first placed Sir Vivian Richards
Greatest turn-around on the cards?
After their dominance at Trent Bridge and with an 8 day gap to the start of the fourth test at Southampton, both the teams have got the required rest they needed especially India as it will give their primary spinner Ravi Ashwin enough time to recover from a groin injury which he suffered during the 3rd test.
Probably for the first time in his 38-match tenure as Captain, Virat might go with an unchanged eleven. Consistency in playing XI is one of the major assets of the previous best teams in away series and India might finally take that step in their journey to be the best touring side in tests. Their Slip catching has improved a lot compared to previous matches.
In an era where the home teams are showing pure supremacy by nullifying away the advantage, India is the only team come close to become the best 'Test Touring' side in the World. If they are able to win the fourth Test in Southampton, then we are in for the greatest turn-around in Test history. The Oval will host the final Test where conditions were more sub-continental and it will definitely assist the Asian Giants.
But for all this to happen, they need the kind of luck England had at Lord's where they enjoyed ideal weather conditions throughout the game. After being the hot favourites at the start of the series, they crumbled in both SA & ENG. But this is their time to show the cricketing world that they are the best Test side.