England vs India 2018 : The series victory that was not to be
As James Anderson knocked over the middle stump of Mohammed Shami, he not only pipped Glenn McGrath to become the fast bowler with highest number of wickets in Test cricket, but also brought an end to 5 weeks of woes, disarray and dejection for Team India, as the visitors went down 1-4 in the 5 match series.
India entered into the contest as favourites, something rare for a side playing against England at their own backyard. However, there were strong reasons to support this notion, with the conditions largely being un-English, with temperatures regularly hovering around 30ºC.
The pitches were dry, with a fair bit of grass on them, providing vital assistance for the spinners. In addition to the duo of Ashwin-Jadeja, England were wary of chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who had annihilated the batting line-up in the limited-overs leg.
Senior stalwarts such as Pujara, Ashwin and Ishant Sharma were expected to tap their potential to the fullest after a stint with county cricket. Despite losing their frontline seamers: Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, the Indian pace attack was still competent to exploit the English conditions and get the better of the hosts.
Virat Kohli was expected to register his name with the likes of Ajit Wadekar, Kapil Dev and Rahul Dravid in the realms of history, by scripting a chronicle at England. However, all this was not to be.
India kick started their Test tour against England at Edgbaston, eyeing the opportunity to become the first Asian country to upstage the hosts at the venue. The chivalrous century of Virat Kohli did give a surge to the expectations, followed by the collapse of the English top order to 87-7.
However, history was not to be scripted, as debutant Sam Curran steered the team out of troubled waters with a quickfire 63, due to undisciplined bowling and ineffective bowling changes. The batsmen failed consecutively, falling 31 runs shy of a mediocre target of 193 runs.
The fighting enthusiasm was expected to be translated into a victory at Lord's, replicating the grandiloquence exhibited at the venue in 2014. But, once again, that was not destined to be, as heavens opened as a blessing for the hosts, with the fast bowlers at their lethal best.
India had to repent for playing two spinners on the surface and were comprehensively outplayed by an innings and 159 runs. England had gone 2-0 up.
With the series at stake, India staged a formidable comeback, with middle-order showing tenacity and forbearance for the first time on the tour. Complemented by the 5 wicket hauls of Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, India upset the hosts by an enormous margin of 203 runs.
At this juncture, comparisons were drawn between the current Indian squad and Sir Don Bradman's historic squad of 1936-37, which won a five-match series after being 0-2 down. But, that was not destined to be.
India reduced England to 86-6 in their first innings and had the opportunity to take the game away from the hosts in the first day itself. However, that was not to be, as the tail haunted India again, with Sam Curran stealing the show with a valiant 78.
Despite England putting 246 on the board, India had the chance to bat the visitors out of the game. But, again, that was not the case to be. All the batsmen except Pujara and Kohli surrendered in front of Moeen Ali, who brought back the ghosts of 2014 at this venue.
When England came out to bat, Ashwin too, had scope to capitalize the rough on the off side. This, was again not meant to be, as the off-spinner failed considerably, allowing England to race away to 271. Indian batting faltered again, handing the match and series win to the Three Lions.
The fifth Test had turned out to be a dead rubber, with the fate of the series already decided. But the fast bowlers embodied the spirit of ' not throwing into the towel ' as promised by coach Ravi Shastri. Once again, it was ' the tale of the tail', complemented by a defensive mindset that made defeat seem inevitable once again.
A fightback by the Indian tail for the first time in the series allowed the team to inch closer to the English total. Root and Cook took the match too away from the Indians, and even though KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant did admirably well to bring the team on the verge of a draw, it was once again, not intended to be, as the batsmen ultimately plummeted in the final session, completing a 4-1 result for the hosts.