India's 'test'ing tour of England
Yet another series away from home, yet another disappointment. The no.1 test side in the world fails to win a series away from home yet again. All too familiar it sounds to an ordinary Indian cricket fan. But is 4-1 the right reflection of what transpired in England? Let's take a closer look and analyse.
Game 1, Birmingham: England 1 India 0
It was the R.Ashwin show in the first innings of the series, not something one would expect first up in England. But what followed was something all of us were hoping to see, arguably one of the best in the world was out for redemption after a dismal tour in 2014. One innings is all it took to put the doubts to rest. One of King Kohli's greatest knocks helped India get close to England's modest first innings score. With a small lead England looked all set to give India a challenging total to chase batting last, but at one stage they looked down and out at 87/7. Little did one know that the 20-year-old lad Sam Curran would play one of the most important knocks in the series. His 63 turned out to be the difference between the sides as India folded up 31 runs short of their target of 193. Only Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya got past 30 in the second essay. But the frailties of the Indian batting line up was out there for everyone to see. A golden opportunity missed going 1-0 up in the series. So near, yet so far.
Game 2, Lords: England 2 India 0
The lesser we talk about this game the better it would seem for an Indian fan. It was an absolute annihilation. So much so that Kuldeep Yadav who was picked surprisingly for the game and Murali Vijay who looked like a monk who had lost his powers, had to head back home. Probably the best thing India did was they chose Pujara who was inexplicably left out for the first test. Him playing 112 balls for his 18 runs in the game ensured that the match went on for 170.3 overs, still not enough to match up to what India did to Afghanistan a month back in Bangalore which ended in 170.4 overs. The same old story of India being poor travellers started surfacing again. It would require a miracle to bring the series back from here.
Game 3, Nottingham: England 2 India 1
The great Indian fightback led by captain marvel, backed by his deputy gave the Indians a respectable first innings score. When it seemed like it was smooth sailing for England at 50 without loss, entered Hardik Pandya. Some people were surprised to see him in the playing XI, but he made sure that everyone was left in awe. A brilliant 5 wicket haul ensured a big enough first innings lead which the Indian batsmen capitalized on and ensured that they virtually bat England out of the game. King Kohli had an able ally in Pujara and when Kohli left, it was time for Pandya who applied the finishing touches. Centurion Jos Buttler showed the world that his skills were not just limited to T20, but he had another T20 sensation in Jasprit Bumrah to compete with. Bumrah completed his second five-wicket haul, playing only in his second test series. A resounding 203 runs victory and there was hope again.
Game 4, Southampton: England 3 India 1
By now, it was clear that the Indian bowling attack was a force to reckon with and they showed exactly that by reducing England to 86-6. But what happened next arguably decided the fate of the series. Comeback man Moeen Ali played the supporting act to the wonder kid Sam Curran who stroked a brilliant 78 which got England to 246. India looked comfortable when Kohli and Pujara were together. But, Kohli's wicket triggered a collapse and India had to thank Pujara for his wonderful 132, which gave India a slender lead of 27 in the first innings. Moeen Ali with his 5 wicket haul got England back in the game and Superman Sam along with Jos Buttler steered England to safety. A target of 240+ was always going to be too much for Kohli and co. and they fell short by 60 runs.
Game 5, The Oval: England 4 India 1
India went into the dead rubber, handing Hanuma Vihari his debut and Jadeja his first game of the series. The Indian bowlers who had time and again brought India back into the game, did just that by reducing England to 181-7 from 133-1. Buttler got away after being given out through the DRS on day 1 and when he returned to bat on his birthday, he stroked a classy 89 to ensure that England reached 332. India were jolted by the English seamers, but Vihari and Jadeja's rearguard action got India to less than 50 runs of the English total. But, the second innings was all about Alastair Cook, batting for one last time in test cricket. He scored a wonderful hundred and along with Root who scored a hundred himself, gave India a stiff target of 464 to chase in the last innings of the series. India slumped to 2-3 and the end looked near. KL Rahul found the company of Ajinkya Rahane and the pair batted well until Rahane had a rush of blood, soon to be followed to the pavilion by Hanuma Vihari. Rishab Pant and KL Rahul got together and built the most enterprising and exciting partnership of the series which sparked thoughts of an impossible victory. But when Adil Rashid picked up both batsmen, the game was all but done. England were deserving winners and Cook was the MoM in his last test.
Like Virat said in the post match presentation, the reason to give the Player of the Series Award to Sam Curran was for the way he performed fearlessly in key moments. That was the difference between England and India. The factor that differentiates between the good and the great is often how one performs in the big moments. India were good for most parts but failed to seize the moment when it really mattered. A wicket here and a few runs there might have so easily tilted the series India's way but to be honest, 4-1 is a fair assessment of India's performance in this series. The same old problems of India's batting against quality swing and seam movement was exposed. Virat Kohli though, was exceptional with the bat amassing 593 runs. The highlight of the series for India was how the quicks performed. They were probing and ruthless. As Indian fans, lets have belief in the team but it is up to the players to learn from their mistakes and grow from here. Lets hope we see a better show in Australia. The best quote for India right now would be "Failure is good until it becomes a habit".
Published 13 Sep 2018, 04:17 IST