England vs India: What changed between Lord's and Trent Bridge
Team India stormed back in the series only to prove themselves.
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Ishant Sharma glanced a Chris Woakes delivery straight to the leg slip where Ollie Pope swiftly moved to his right and pouched the catch. England had humiliated India at the iconic Lord’s by an innings and 159 runs. The match effectively ended inside two days. It was a huge anti-climax which no one would’ve dreamt of after the way the tourists had competed at Edgbaston. Yes, they had issues to sort out with their batting then but were expected to be better.
Lord’s aberration followed a whole lot of criticism and the place of several players in the team was questioned. Virat Kohli’s chopping and changing, Hardik Pandya’s role in the team, the calls to throw KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay out of the team increased, almost everything was under the scanner. To add to this, the team opting to stay in London instead of travelling to Nottingham and training also didn’t go down well with some experts.
All the pre-series statements of the captain and the coach looked fluff and the fans almost resigned to India’s fate of losing yet another series. 4-0 of 2011 was followed by 3-1 in 2014 and many declared that it will be 5-0 this time around. Not that England were unbeatable in Tests, but the fact that the tourists went down meekly proved a hotbed for to all the talk.
But Ravi Shastri was confident in the press conference two days ahead of the third Test and expressed faith in his team to make a comeback. He stressed that there is not a negative bone in this Test team and they believe in their abilities.
Match day, green pitch, gloomy conditions and Virat Kohli lost the toss only for Joe Root to put India in to bat first. They certainly wanted to have a crack at the ‘low on confidence’ Indian batting much like they did at Lord’s. Kohli was happy. The team wanted to bat first. His words had little merit and sounded more of a makeup.
James Anderson bowled the first over of the game at Shikhar and there was a change in his approach. KL Rahul faced the next over and whoa! He also looked comfortable. The batsmen applied themselves a lot better and the intent of playing the swinging ball late was evident, they weren’t committing to playing any shot, preferred to hang back and delay the decision to as late as possible. They were playing most of the balls on the back foot and boy did it work.
The openers spent more than an hour at the crease which surprised England and their bowlers, Then the middle-order finally arrived. Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane scored brilliant half-centuries. More than anything the time they spent in the middle was enough to establish their authority and despite the lower-order collapse, Team India had posted its first 300-plus score of the series. Application. The onus was now on the home team’s batsmen and on their response.
If Rahul and Dhawan changed their technique, the vice-captain, a pillar of this team, who had been rusty for good part of a year now, looked like his old self. Kohli was always going to play a defining knock but the way Rahane batted at the other end was a bigger difference. A huge boost and a sigh of relief for the team. He was back, very close to his best. The feet were moving, getting to the pitch of the ball, more judicious with his shot selection, letting go what didn’t require to be played, all that, helped him score runs when they were on offer.
India always had a potent bowling attack to take 20 wickets and the inclusion of Jasprit Bumrah infused the X-factor. To add to England’s dismay, Hardik Pandya decided it was his time to make a mark. He had to. There were questions on his existence, on his role, was he as good as the perceptions? He responded with one of the quickest five-wicket hauls in Tests. It took him only 28 balls to run through the English middle-order and they were bundled out for 161.
India had a lead of 168 runs. It reignited hope for an unlikely Indian come back in the series. But the job was not done yet. They still had to play well in their second essay. The platform was again set by the openers. At one stage, they were scoring at 6 runs an over. So what changed suddenly? The lead of 168 runs gave them immense confidence and of course, the conditions eased out.
But the way day three panned out, it made the cricket fans see the other side of this Indian team. The conditions were gloomy all day long and the ball swung. But it didn’t bother them this time. Their confidence dealt with the swing. The duo of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara decided hung in there, the conditions demanded a grinding effort. They had to put in that, to lead the team into a winning position. They were dominating the game.
The English bowlers could feel it, the momentum had shifted, the Andersons, the Woakes’ couldn’t produce the magic. It was happening at the other end though. Slowly and steadily they batted England out of the game.
Only 228 runs were added in 79 overs in the day which included a run-a-ball fifty by Pandya. But most importantly, India had worn out the opposition. They were tired, the shoulders were down, they lost the game even before walking out to bat again.
Patience, Resilience, Success
It was impossible to chase down the target of 521 runs and it needed a herculean effort to play out 6 sessions for a draw. “Yes, India will roll them over now,” many including me said. It was not to be. This time the bowlers were going through a stern examination. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler batted beautifully and denied them a wicket for 57.2 overs. Did the intensity of the bowling unit go down?
Not at all. They don’t like easy wins, they don’t ask for easy opponents. They were patient and continued hitting the right lengths, made the batsmen commit mistakes, the ball took edges, it didn’t carry but they waited. For a new hope, for the second new ball. Bumrah made the ball talk straight away and ran through England’s lower middle-order.
Ravi Ashwin foxed Anderson on the final morning of the Test match and India staged a stunning comeback in the series. England’s batting problems were compounded now and there are talks on how this Indian team can win the series 3-2. So what changed in the five days?
The humiliation at Lord’s hurt the Indian team and they would’ve looked at themselves in the mirror. Accountability. Shastri says to have reminded them of that. The belief and some change in the batting technique turned around the contest completely. Another important difference between the two teams that deserves a special mention is the slip catching. KL Rahul was just perfect at second slip and ended up taking seven catches and Kohli also plucked a couple. India caught most, England dropped 15.
Will this team be able to win the five-match contest and repeat history after 80 years? Too early to go too far in the future. Live the moment, that’s this team’s mantra.
It is very easy to pass judgements for us armchair critics. For now, you’ve got to give it to them for storming back in the contest.
Let us now meet in the fourth Test!