What we have witnessed in the just concluded INDIA-ENGLAND test series will be cherished for a long time. It is always a sweet, thrilling experience to thrash inventors in their own game especially after having lost three successive series. It was earlier predicted that England will have a rough ride against India when they were struggling against Bangladesh, ranking 9th amongst the ten test playing nations. On the other hand, Indian lions have won their last four test series. These predictions eventually became reality, though it took its due time.
England had a fantabulous start to their Indian sojourn when they contested in the 1st Test at Rajkot. Visitors looked fresh, their batting looked deep, bowling had variation and they came out firing. The match ended in a draw as the captain of the Indian ship robustly held his end at (49*) while wickets fell at the other end. Then came the 2nd Test at Vizag and who loves that ground more than Mr. Kohli. Scintillating knocks by Pujara (119) and Kohli (167) in the first innings followed by shrewd bowling by Ashwin & co. shuffled the series scoreboard to 1-0. The 3rd test was beautifully set at Mohali where experts forecasted the comeback of the English Team. The spinning trio (Ashwin, Jadeja & Jayant) were the Rockstars, performing handsomely both with the bat and the ball. Parthiv Patel looked in a hurry to finish the game to attend Yuvraj Singh’s wedding function.
India was leading 2-0 and could not lose the series from there. At this stage, the English were required to up the intensity but the platform was set for a big debacle. Despite winning tosses, England was unable to take advantage. The 4th Test at Mumbai saw a brilliant century by debutant Keaton Jennings (112) in the first innings but it was faded again by mammoth knocks by Kohli (235) in addition to Murali Vijay (136) and Jayant Yadav (104). It was Kohli’s third double century this year. Whatever remained of the match, was meticulously handled by the Indian spinning crew (Ashwin grabbed 12 wickets, Jadeja 6 wickets). India had already won the series but they wanted a complete whitewash. What India had in store for the last and the 5th Test at Chennai was something that still gives Cook nightmares. Flat track at the Chepauk stadium made runs flow like a stream. No one was expecting a result after day 3 when England had put 477 on the board in the first innings whereas India was still batting. Day 3 and Day 4 saw heroic knocks by K L Rahul (199 – narrowly missing his maiden double century) and Karun Nair (303* – only the second Indian, after Virendra Sehwag, to score a triple century) helping India register their highest ever Test score of 759. At lunch (Day 5), when England had 10 wickets in hand, everyone was anticipating a draw. But after lunch, the ‘spiral whirl’ of Sir Jadeja showed seven English batsmen their way to the pavilion and turned the table in favour of the Indians. A 4-0 win in a 5-match test series is a great accomplishment in Indian Test history.
The series saw many top performer-debutants from both sides.
#1 Haseeb Hameed, at a tender age of 19, showed strong character while opening alongside Captain Cook. His valiant attitude amazed everyone when he came to bat at no.8 with a broken finger in Mohali.
#2 Jayant Yadav was impressive with the bat and the ball. He showed great temperament in the 4th test where he went wicket less in the first innings but scored a century and took an important wicket of Root in the 2nd innings.
#3 Keaton Jennings (son of former South African coach – Rey Jennings) impressed on his debut series by scoring a hundred and a fifty in 2 matches.
#4 Karun Nair became an overnight star after scoring 303*, becoming the 2nd Indian batsman to reach this milestone. He used his feet superbly, had certain easiness in his sweeps and reverse sweeps, traits that are rarely seen in Indian batsmen.
Thanks to Rahul Dravid – coach of India A for being the wall behind India’s bench strength.
R Ashwin and R Jadeja were the ring masters of this series grabbing 28 and 26 wickets respectively.
There were many others factors which helped India in their series win. DRS (Decision Review System) which was adopted for the first time in tests in India, played a key role in detecting the on-field umpire’s flaws which proved crucial in many situations. Indian seamers outperformed visiting counterparts in almost every match. Mohammed Shami picked up more wickets than any England bowler apart from Adil Rashid. Umesh was lethal with his raw pace while Ishant & Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck at times when needed. Also the lower order showed immense potential by helping the team get bigger totals in situations when the top order collapsed. There seemed to be no ‘Tail’ to the team since everyone contributed with the willow adding enormous depth to the batting line up.
A lot of records and awards followed this terrific win. India, under the captaincy of Kohli has established a record for contesting most Tests (18) in a row between August 2015 and December 2016 without a defeat, surpassing Kapil Dev’s record of 17 tests. R Ashwin was capped with a double bonanza by ICC, giving him the ICC Cricket of the Year as well as the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year. After 42 years, the top two spots in the ICC Test bowling rankings have been occupied by Indians (R Ashwin and R Jadeja).
It would now be interesting to see how England bounces back with a lot of buzz going around about Alastair Cook’s future as captain. He deserves to be captain and might want to stay to avenge the 5-0 defeat in his last Ashes series in Australia. But, if at all the Board feels that there should be a change of guard, with J Root as an option, they should act quickly as there isn’t a lot of time left for Ashes. As of now, the team must focus on the upcoming ODI series against India and try and end the tour on a good note.