Day 4 review –
After all the excitement and drama that transpired over the last 3 days, we all were in anticipation of a nerve-wracking finish. What unfolded though, was the same old story of the celebrated Indian batting surrendering to the opposition. Yet, it was a fabulous test match and in this T20 age, it just showed the class of the purest format of the game.
It was India’s game to lose as the day began. James Anderson in his post-match conference last night had mentioned about getting Kohli out early. He didn’t dismiss Kohli, but in the very first over he got Dinesh Karthik edging the ball to second slip where Dawid Malan, finally held on to a catch. After shaping the ball away from the right-hander initially, he brought a couple of deliveries into Karthik, and the last one just held its line to take the edge of the bat. It was a perfect start for the 36-year-old, not so much for India.
All eyes were on Kohli as HardikPandya walked in the middle. After a slow start, he played some delightful shots to keep the scoreboard ticking. Virat at the other end was batting with the peak of his concentration. The Indian captain was batting on a different wicket in this match. It was a display of exemplary technique, skills, endurance and immense concentration. He brought up his half-century with a boundary to fine leg as India began to dream again. However, it didn’t last long as the bowling change worked magic for England. Ben Stokes in his first over of the morning brought one back into Kohli as he was trapped LBW. Virat who is normally so good with the on-side shots just fell over that one and was trapped in front. He reviewed the decision but it was pretty much dead. It was a sad end to a wonderful batting exhibition from one of the world’s finest batsmen.
With 53 more to get, India had only HardikPandya as the genuine batsman at the crease. Shami followed Kohli to the dressing room in the very same over. Couple of edges flew to the boundary off Ishant Sharma’s bat, before Adil Rashid trapped him LBW to leave India to get 40 more runs with 1 wicket in hand. Ben Stokes then finished off the Indian innings as he dismissed Hardik to grab 4 wickets in the innings. England won by 31 runs which might not look comprehensive, but was clinical in view of what happened in the first innings.
Two players stood out in this match. One batted out of his skin, curbed his natural game at times and put on a batting exhibition. The other, bowled beautifully in the first innings, showed tremendous grit with the bat and eventually made the difference. ViratKohli looked the class apart of all the batsmen but young Sam Curran was quite outstanding throughout the course of this match. He was deservedly given the Man of the Match award.
Looking ahead, England have their problems at the top of the order; But India have a lot to think about as well. Barring the skipper, batting is a clear worry. While Dhawan and Rahul are facing a few technical problems, Rahane seems to have more of a psychological issue. He is giving an impression of having self-doubts and has been woefully out of touch. Being a fan I want him to do well all the time, but it pains me a great deal to see him struggle like this. The top 3 along with the vice-captain will have to figure things out at the earliest if India have to make a comeback in the series.
The bowling was a big positive. All the 3 seamers bowled well on a good wicket, but Ashwin was quite splendid. It was fascinating to see him troubling the English batsmen with his slow off breaks. His control over line and length and his ability to get the ball to turn off the pitch to deceive the batsmen was absolutely fantastic. Sans Bhuvi and Bumrah, India have done reasonably well with the ball. It’s now up to the batsmen to stand up and pile on the runs to put pressure on the hosts. It’s not all over yet. England are now ahead but the series is still open.