Heading into the final day of the Oval Test – two numbers held utmost significance. 291 – the number of runs England needed to pull off the record highest chase at the venue, and 10 – the wickets India needed to capture back the lead they had attained at Lord’s.
Given the nature of the pitch on offer – as flat as a roller – any of the three results were possible, but in the end, it was India, who through their bowlers, made the ball jump and nip around and dismiss England for 210 to win the match by 157 runs. Umesh Yadav picked up three wickets to go with his three in the first innings, supported well by Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur.
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England, who had reached 77/0 safely at stumps on Day 4, needed their batsmen to carry on, and as play resumed on the final day, it seemed to be the case with openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hammed hitting half-centuries. But the moment their 100-run partnership was broken, the wheels came off.
From losing two wickets in the opening session, Jadeja, Bumrah, Umesh and Thakur derailed England with six wickets between lunch and tea. And as play entered the final session, it was only a matter of time.
Shortly after Burns got to his fifty, he edged Thakur for the first England wicket of the day. India did not have to wait for a second wicket with Dawid Malan getting run out by a strong throw from substitute Mayank Agarwal, as the batsman scampered for a risky run. India could have had England three down before lunch had Mohammed Siraj not dropped a sitter of Hameed at mid-on, but the missed chance did not hurt the team much. Shortly into the second session, Jadeja produced a stunning ball, cleaning up Hameed as he shouldered arms.
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That’s when the wheels came off. Bumrah got two wickets in two overs, with his reverse-swinging yorkers cleaning up Ollie Pope for 2 and Jonny Bairstow for a duck. Joining Bairstow for England’s second duck of the innings was their vice-captain Moeen Ali, with Jadeja picking up his second. The deal-breaker came when Root departed.
If Bumrah and Jadeja had set the platform, up stepped Umesh to clean up the tail. Chris Woakes and Craig Overton were sent back at either end of the tea break, before Anderson nicked to Pant and sent India into a frenzy.
It weren’t only the bowlers who set up India’s handsome win after the defeat at Headingley not too long ago. Despite England gaining a 99-run first-innings lead, India’s batsmen responded strongly. Rohit Sharma led the way with his maiden overseas Test century, supported ably by half-centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant.
And of course, not to forget Shardul Thakur’s twin fifties in the match, which in the first innings lifted India to 191, and in the second, ensure the advantage given by their top-order did not get wasted.