Indians finally tick all the boxes

Indians finally tick all the boxes

THE FINAL ONE: Ajinkya Rahane takes a catch to dismiss England’s James Anderson, signalling India’s victory in the third Test on Wednesday. Reuters

Facing a severe backlash at home and with the Pataudi Trophy on the line, the Indians produced a superlative collective show that not only resurrected their faltering campaign but gave an ample exhibition of their fighting spirit.

Pilloried batsmen got back to run-making ways with skipper Virat Kohli yet again leading from the front with a second century of the series, fast bowlers dished out another impressive show in somewhat batting friendly conditions, Hardik Pandya showed glimpses of his all-round talent and slip fielders held onto to most of the catches as India scored an emphatic 203-run win — their seventh Test win in England.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan, probably handed the last chance to prove himself in seaming conditions, made a wonderful statement of intent after England skipper Joe Root won the toss and asked India to bat first in overcast conditions. The left-hander came roaring out of the blocks and raised the second half-century stand for the opening wicket of the series with KL Rahul.

Although the conditions were not as treacherous as Lord’s, it still required skill and temperament to avoid an in-form James Anderson and Stuart Broad from making early strikes. Dhawan was brilliant in the second innings too, flattening England with his dashing strokes to ensure India totally dominated them. A half-century could have helped his cause but his knocks in both innings made life easy for the middle-order who were exposed way too early to the moving ball at Edgbaston and Lord’s.

Rahul, who has struggled to cement his place in the Indian side despite his obvious talent, shone too in both innings. He finally showed the patience and footwork needed to tackle the tricky conditions in England and he topped his acts with a solid performance at slips — grabbing seven of them. India had been struggling in that department for a while now and Rahul’s presence there is reassuring.

Pujara rediscovered his old self in the second. He overcame the initial phase of circumspection with grit and then in the presence of Kohli just flowered to post his second career fifty in England. He showed the mental discipline and aptitude one is used to seeing of him.

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane also hit the right notes. He realised his mistake of fishing outside the off-stump that brought about his downfall in the previous two Tests by playing closer to his body.

No words of praise is enough for Kohli. He’s been smashing one record after another and with his ton in the second innings he surpassed Mohd Azharuddin for most runs by an Indian captain in a Test series in England. On 440 runs and two more games, one wonders what benchmark he’s going to set.

The biggest takeaway though is Hardik Pandya. Questions surrounded on what part of the all-rounder’s role was he fulfilling but the Baroda cricketer gave a fitting riposte. He took a five-for in the first innings and then hammered a half-century when India batted for a second time.

Lastly but very importantly the performance of fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Bumrah not only sent in 26 punishing overs on a single day but gave India’s attack a new dimension with his unique action and delivery.

His ability to keep chugging along without fatigue is remarkable. Ishant once again showed the attacking teeth he’s added to his ammunition while Shami, erratic at times, is a sight for the sore eyes when on fire.

While India did tick all the boxes they know the hard work has just begun. They are still 1-2 down in the series with two to play. England, despite their top-order wobbles, will come hard at them at Southampton. Two more stern examinations await them. A failure in even one will undo the sweet taste of seventh win.

DH News Service