India were 191 all-out on the day 1 of the fourth test at The Oval , they were literally carrying on their 2014 template they created in England itself. Draw the first0 test, win the second at Lord’s and then stop winning suddenly. But this time around India weren’t in the mood of giving it up just yet, their gritty attitude in the test arena all these years has been evident of what this Virat Kohli led Indian team can do.
The start for the Indians wasn’t the best as some would say as India were bundled up for a paltry 191 on a flat pitch which had nothing for the bowlers. Shardul was exceptional in his comeback as he scored a vital 57 runs off jusr 36 balls scoring the fastest fifty in the 176 year history of the Oval. Virat Kohli gained some rhythm at the top scoring 50 runs, but eventually knicked one off Robinson on 50 itself. Woakes was exceptional on his comeback as he reaped rewards off the dead Oval track to his benefit picking up 4 important wickets. England came in to bat with some advantage only to be pulled back by Bumrah picking up the openers and reducing England 6 for 2. England never looked too comfortable with Indian bowlers continuously asking questions further sunk England to 62 for 5. Enter Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow, the duo added 89 runs for the 6th wicket bailing England out of the danger zone. Ollie Pope was fantastic on his comeback scoring a fluent 81 runs alongside all-round Chris Woakes who dented India further with his batting skills scoring a fifty. England finished on 290 , well ahead of India piping a 99 run lead, of course 1 less than the mental advantage of that 100 number but England were definitely in the driver’s seat .
All England had to do was get India buckled up under 150 and secure an easy win. Yes the plan was that simple. But Rohit Sharma and Kl Rahul were like ‘ Change of plans guys “. They saw off the new ball not particularly with ease as England fielders dropped some gettable chances but yet managed to get India out of threat with their 83 run opening stand. After the fall of Kl Rahul, Pujara joined Rohit Sharma in what was the partnership of the match of 153 runs and forcing England to rethink about their bowling plans. Rohit Sharma went on to score his maiden overseas test century what was definitely his best overseas knock and it came at a very important time under pressure. India were in a commanding position with 236 for 1 with two set batsmen at the end of the 80th over of the match. Joe Root immediately took the new ball as he was evidently frustrated with India toying the England bowlers with that old ball. Ollie Robinson came in to bowl the 81 over with the new ball, it was expected to be a short one with the kind of field set by Joe Root to Rohit Sharma. Ollie Robinson intended to bowl a short delivery obviously but to Rohit Sharma’s surprise, the new bowl came on a little too late on to the bat and his affinity to pull led to his fall. The new ball had done the trick on the very very first ball. Rohit Sharma walked away with a standing ovation and deservingly so. His well set partner Cheteshwar Pujara too lost his way owing to brilliant delivery eventually ending up into Moeen Ali’s hands at the the third slip. Virat alongside Jadeja started to frame a partnership only to be broken by Chris Woakes cleaning up Jadeja , Rahane in a quick succession. After the untimely fall of Virat Kohli on 44 runs, Pant along with Shardul framed the game changing partnership of over 100 runs, teeing of the English bowlers for fun. Shardul completed his 2nd consecutive fifty alongside Pant who gained some rhythm to score his first 50 of the series. Joe Root decided to bring on some spin to contain the assault and was successful as he got Shardul with a non-turner . Moeen Ali too got rid of Pant immediately after his fifty but the damage was already done . India were ahead in the game with Umesh Yadav and Bumrah too swinging their bats scoring vital 52 runs amongst the last three of them. India had set a steep target of 358 runs for England at the Oval.
Haseeb Hameed alongside Rory Burns had a seriously positive start as they saw off the third session of the day 4 and even most of the morning session of day 5 managing to score a 100 runs partnership. But it was that man again , Shardul who broke the partnership picking up Rory Burns . Shortly after the wicket of Burns, Malan was involved in a pretty unwanted run-out to expose England’s middle order onto the field. Joe Root as always looked solid with Hameed batting with some intent. Ravindra Jadeja was operating from one end to limit the run flow and was bowling into the right handers. Root and Hameed were following the traditional technique of padding away the bowl or going for sweeps to negate Jadeja’s tactics. Jadeja continued to bowl beautifully inside the rough and finally got better of Hameed bowling a beauty tearing off Hameed’s off stump. To England’s misery then came the most lethal spell of the match, Jasprit Bumrah with the reverse swing. Bumrah bowled bewilderingly well to bowl of the likes of the first innings stars Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow to become the fastest Indian pacer to take 100 Test Wickets. His spell was just match turning as Shardul Thakur then broke through Joe Root’s defense to give one final blow to the hosts. Umesh too didn’t waste any time to clean up the tail as India finally defeated England at the Kennington Oval after 50 years by 157 runs. All the players just were pumped going 2-1 up against England in England. That was seriously a team performance from the Indians. Rohit Sharma was handed the man of the match for his prolific hundred and ofcourse Shardul Thakur did what he did, he was amazing with the bat and proved to be the missing piece in the all-rounder puzzle for India. Finally Hardik Pandya when fully fit, has now some serious competition in the test arena .
Onto the Manchester Test now……