Updated: August 29, 2021 9:57:45 am
India slipped in the corridor of uncertainty. England learnt from their mistakes on the third day and hardly bowled anything on the leg stump with the second new ball on the fourth morning. Eight wickets fell in less than two hours. From overnight 215/2, India slumped to 278 all out to lose the third Test by an innings and 76 runs. Yesterday’s resolve evaporated into thin air.
Six catches went behind the stumps today, either to the wicketkeeper or in the slip cordon. Pujara’s LBW was down to misjudging the length and movement of a delivery in the channel. Mohammed Shami was bowled through the gate off a big off-break from Moeen Ali. Indian batsmen became uncertain and hung their bat, as England seamers targeted the off stump channel, bowling an impeccable length.
England’s celebration after securing the victory was a tad low-key. There was no mad rush to collect the stumps. Ollie Robinson took one to savour his second five-for in Test cricket. He was the Man-of-the-Match and thoroughly deserved the memento. In an innings where James Anderson returned with one wicket, the 27-year-old from Sussex spearheaded England’s pace attack. Only about a couple of months ago, Robinson’s career was thrown into uncertainty after being hauled up for some offensive tweets he posted as a teenager. He has shown strong character to put the controversy behind and raise his game. With 16 wickets at 19.06, Robinson is his team’s highest wicket-taker after three Tests.
When England suffered a crushing defeat at Lord’s, and Root losing the plot on the final day contributed more to the loss than anything else, things looked bleak for the hosts. Demoralised and devoid of inspiration, the series had threatened to be a one-way traffic at the time. Bereft of four frontline players – Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood – their comeback has been spectacular. By letting their cricket do the talking, they gave India a rude awakening.
India’s batting unravelled quickly on the fourth day. England took the second new ball right at the start and Anderson was right on the money. Gone were the freebies he offered yesterday. His every delivery was a challenge for Virat Kohli.
First three overs were maidens. Against such relentless pressure, indecision crept in. Pujara shouldered-arms to a Robinson delivery that broke back off the seam. It was full enough to take a good chunk of the off stump, which the DRS confirmed. Pujara was out on 91, without adding anything to his overnight score.
The DRS saved Kohli, when the India captain reviewed a caught-behind decision on Ajinkya Rahane’s insistence. The bat had clipped the pad. A four off Robinson took him to his half-century. Another four came on its heels; a half-volley was driven past mid-on. A couple of rare loose deliveries later, Robinson regained his discipline – a length ball angled into the corridor and straightened with extra bounce. Kohli pushed at it and Root got a catch at first slip. On the third day, during his unbeaten 45, he wasn’t beaten even once outside the off stump. It was a different ball game today, with England bowlers asking tougher questions.
Rahane didn’t look troubled to start with. A couple of fours came from the meat of the bat. But England were keeping things simple, a probing line ball after ball. An angled delivery from Anderson from a little wide of the crease drew him into a defensive push. The ball straightened to take the edge to Jos Buttler. His half-century in the second innings at Lord’s feels like an aberration.
The sun shone bright and the Headingley pitch was still perfect for batting. India were done in by England’s precision.
Rishabh Pant has become a case of angling ball and dangling bat. Yet again, he reached for a wide one from Robinson to offer a catch to Craig Overton at third slip. He has been averaging 17 in this series. England have figured him out.
After being bundled out for 78 in the first innings, the only way they could have come back into this Test was through excellent bowling. But the bowlers, too, were inconsistent. Today, once the first three wickets fell quickly, the writing was on the wall.
A good team doesn’t become bad overnight. Until this Test, India dominated the series. Rain denied them a victory at Trent Bridge and they went one-up at Lord’s with a thumping win. As it turned out, Leeds was a bad Test for them. However, a defeat as humiliating as this demands a shake-up.
The next Test starts at the Oval in five days and India have a short turnaround time. “We like to be in the situations where people start coming at us with doubts and start questioning the ability of our team,” Kohli said at the post-match press conference.