SK Elite: Ravindra Jadeja's 7/48 cripples England at Chennai
Do you remember the time you first watched one of India’s current superstars – Ravindra Jadeja? Many people know that he played the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, but he first burst on to the scene in the 2006 Under-19 World Cup (in which India reached the finals).
Even after a couple of decent U-19 World Cups, Jadeja wasn’t recognised as much as some of the other players were. It was only a stellar performance in the inaugural IPL (in which Shane Warne named him ‘Rockstar’) and a brilliant Ranji 2008/09 season that helped him earn his maiden India cap.
Even though his limited-overs performances were passable, Jadeja wasn’t considered for Tests, thus, he was forced to perform only in the domestic circuit (mainly the Ranji Trophy). In fact, in the 2012/13 season, he became the first player to score three triple centuries. In the same season, he earned his maiden Test cap and continued his fantastic run, becoming India’s go-to bowler in the next couple of years.
However, a shoulder injury and a poor run in ODIs in 2015 (including a poor showing in the World Cup) led to him being axed for the limited-overs series against South Africa in October. Jadeja though wasn’t bogged down. He went back to the domestic circuit and picked up 38 wickets in four Ranji games. And this stellar showing helped him earn back his spot in the Test team (in November 2015 against South Africa) and he hasn’t looked back since.
In 2016, he had a very good year both with the bat and the ball. Before the final Test against England, Jadeja had picked up 33 wickets in eight Tests at an average of 27.33. In that particular series, prior to the last Test, he had 16 scalps to his name but he was saving his best for last. India had already pocketed the series having surged to a 3-0 lead. England won the toss in the final Test (for the fourth time in the series) and had no hesitation in batting first on what looked like a very good batting track.
Solid batting show from England, but Jadeja is India’s best bowler
England, in perfect batting conditions, began poorly as they were reduced to 21/2 in the 13th over with Jadeja picking up Alastair Cook for the sixth time (in Tests). But a brilliant hundred from Moeen Ali (146) along with important fifties from Joe Root (88), Liam Dawson (66* on debut) and Adil Rashid (60) helped the tourists reach 477.
India’s bowlers toiled hard but each of them was among the wickets. Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers, his stump-to-stump line earning him figures of 3/106 in 45 overs.
The Karun Nair show
In reply to England’s 477, India got off to a solid start. Makeshift opener Parthiv Patel and KL Rahul put on a 152-run opening stand. But wickets at regular intervals reduced India to 211/3. Karun Nair joined his Karnataka teammate Rahul (who was batting on 107) and the two stitched a wonderful 161-run partnership. After Rahul's dismissal on 199, Karun took control, crossing the 100, 200 and 300-run marks.
Jadeja runs through the England batting line-up on the fifth day
By the time India declared their innings, it was already late into the fourth day. England batted only five overs on the 4th day with a further 90 remaining on the final day. Considering the pitch was not deteriorating, it looked like a relatively simple task.
England started well, easily negotiating Ashwin and the Indian quicks, following which Jadeja was introduced into the attack after about 80 minutes. He created few problems, working with the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump. With two lefties at the crease, he hit their pads constantly whilst delivering arm-balls that sneaked past the bat. However, he couldn’t break through for India as the visitors went into lunch at 97/0. A draw was almost a certainty!
But the lunch interval shifted the momentum. Jadeja struck in only his second over after the break, scalping England’s skipper Cook for the 7th time in his career.
In the span of 10 overs, England lost three wickets and began to look a little fidgety. Jadeja had picked up all three wickets. He was backed up well by Ishant Sharma who picked up the 4th wicket (even for this wicket, Jadeja had a major role to play as he took a brilliant running catch).
The first innings centurion, Moeen Ali, and Ben Stokes then denied India another wicket for almost 20 overs. At tea, the game looked destined for a draw. But an ill-timed slog off Jadeja led to Ali’s downfall and opened the floodgates.
With a little spin and bounce, Jadeja ran through England’s middle and lower orders. He picked a stunning 7/48 – his career-best figures and his first 10-wicket haul in Test cricket.
He finished the series as the second-highest wicket-taker (26 wickets) behind his counterpart Ashwin.
That game against England at Cheapuk helped Jadeja emerge from Ashwin's shadows as he finished with magical figures of 25-5-48-7 to bowl India to an improbable win in the last two sessions. That set the tone for 2017 as well where he went on to pick up more than 50 Test wickets, becoming the No. 1 bowler in the ICC Test Rankings for a brief period.