Alright, another 4-day test match, perhaps a beautiful one where English men came out victorious. It wasn’t a one-sided affair anytime during the four-day game. The No 1 ranked Indian team played to their potential but missed to capitalize at certain moments of the game which cost them at the end of the fourth day in Southampton.
At the toss, a smiling Virat Kohli mentioned he fancied a chance if Joe Root will once again opt to bowl after winning another toss in the series. The English captain had other plans of sending India to bowl on the beautiful sunny day which was expected to be perfect for batting. However Indian pacers bowled with discipline and accuracy to reduce England to 86/6 in less than 3 hours.
However, they missed getting the rest of the wickets quickly, allowing Mo and young Sam Super Curran to put up a decent total on board. Curran scored 78 to take England to respectable first innings total of 246.
India started cautiously. Openers failed to provide a great start once again. It was up to Captain Kohli and Che to fight it out. Once again Sam Curran provided the breakthrough with Kohli’s wicket when both batsmen were looking set. It was only then Moeen Ali took over the attack and run through the middle and lower order to end India innings at 275. Pujara with a wonderful 132* including some fabulous shots towards the end of the innings gave India a small lead while Moeen celebrated his come back to England side with a fifer.
Cook’s struggle continued when he got out chasing a ball wide outside off which he could have easily left alone which was followed by a surprise promotion for Ali to No 3. England Vice Captain Jos Buttler termed it as tactical move according to the match situation later in the day. Neither England coach nor Captain confirmed if this is a long term strategy for Moein at No 3. England Coach still believes they haven’t found the best batting order and its task still in progress irrespective of the series winning performance.
Promotion to No 3 didn’t work out for Ali who scored fighting 40 in the first innings. Jennings managed a 30+ in the second innings before getting LBW to Shami , once again with lack of feet movement in the last over before lunch which was followed by Bairstow getting out for a golden duck – the second time in this series – a lazy shot on the first ball after lunch. Shami bowled beautifully and had two in two but Stokes denied him a hatrick with his solid defence. Moved to his preferred position at No 4 Joe Root scored a fine 48 before getting run out by a brilliant direct hit from Shami. It was not necessary to take that risky run given England were rebuilding the innings well. Root was a couple of seconds late in responding to Stokes call for a quick single which cost England , captain’s precious wicket. Shami was accurate enough to hit the stumps which send back Root two short of a fighting half century. England sensed another middle order collapse. However, Buttler – Stokes pair provided them stability. This was followed by Sam Curran who once again batted sensibly with the lower order scoring few more runs to give India a decent, rather difficult target of 245 to chase down.
Shami bowled his heart out. Ashwin had an off day struggling to find his rhythm on a pitch which was best suited for him, raising concerns over a hip injury he sustained and his fitness. Its debatable that England batsmen played him with the utmost respect and scored only when there was an opportunity or he missed hitting the footmarks to get enough turn to trouble the batsman.
India didn’t have the best start for the chase- down to 22/3 with KL Rahul and Dhawan disappointed the viewers again, while first innings centurion Pujara got out for 5. Broad and Anderson kept them in the hunt. In a match which saw so many close LBW calls and umpiring decisions, Kohli and Rahane survived the difficult phase, brought runs on board- with an excellent 100 run partnership. When things looked set and hopes of levelling series were back, Mo struck again with the big wicket of Kohli and rest was another collapse. Pandya followed him for 0 , Pant was aggressive only to make 18. None of them lasted long enough to take it to another day of the test. Fittingly Sam Curran wrapped up the innings trapping Ashwin’s lbw.
England won by 60 runs. Scoreboard must not say everything. It wasn’t India’s worst game or England’s best – but England just capitalised on the key moments to win the series 3-1
Kennington Oval will be waiting to witness the final one – India will be up for the challenge to finish off with a win, England – to continue the momentum.
For all the fan noise for the blood of openers – clichés will follow.
Rahul was bowled with an unplayable fourth innings delivery
Dhawan can be the game changer if he gets going
Pujara rahahe Kohli did score runs
Pandya has the potential to become the next Kapil Dev and Pant is still new at the highest level.
Any changes to the playing 11- as the head coach of India says – you will know at 11 am on match day.