India are one match away from winning test series in both Australia and England in the same year, as they prepare for the fifth test in Manchester, which begins on Friday.
Their 157-run triumph at the Oval on Monday gave them a 2-1 lead with one game remaining, following England’s innings and 76-run victory at Headingley, when India were bowled for 78 in the first innings.
In south London, though, it was a different story.
Ravindra Jadeja bowled some probing spin and all-rounder Shardul Thakur hit 50 in both innings and got important wickets. Rohit Sharma struck his first test century outside of India.
Jasprit Bumrah’s devastating reverse swing session – 6-3-6-2 – then played a key role in England losing their last eight wickets for 69 runs as India came back strong.
Despite taking 413 test wickets, India’s victory was made all the more astonishing by the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin, who has yet to appear in this series.
India came back from being 36 all out in the series opener to win 2-1 in Australia, and they now lead England by the same margin after rebounding back from another batting disaster.
‘I’M WRITING OFF LOVE’
After the triumph, India captain Virat Kohli said, “It was unbelievable.” “We enjoy being written off, and I believe that after Leeds, a lot of people rose up and asked, ‘Will India be able to come back?'”
“But we’ve proven time and time again that we’re a top side and that we’ve been at the top for a long time,” he added, “and that’s because of the belief and passion that we have in this squad.”
Sourav Ganguly, head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a former India captain, remarked on Twitter: “The skill is the difference, but the biggest difference is the absorbing power of pressure.” Cricket in India is well ahead of the others.”
India, who have been in England since losing the maiden World Test Championship final to New Zealand in June, are no longer being written off.
India, on the other hand, must deal with the pressure of being favorites to win, or at the very least avoid defeat, in Manchester if they are to win a fourth series in England after victories in 1971, 1986, and 2007.
Knowing that India would be without head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun, and fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar, who all tested positive for Covid-19, India may be able to summon some of the ‘backs against the wall’ spirit Kohli relies on.
CONCERNS OF ANDERSON
Meanwhile, for the first time since 1986, England is on the verge of losing two test series in a home season.
In the absence of injured Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer, and all-rounder Ben Stokes missing the series due to mental health difficulties, veteran seamers James Anderson and Ollie Robinson have bowled more than 163 overs each, combining for 36 wickets.
“You want to make sure you’re doing the best thing for the player, but you also don’t want to go into a test match and have one less bowler at your disposal,” England captain Joe Root said.
Jos Buttler, who was absent from the fourth test due to the birth of his second child, will return as England’s vice-captain and wicketkeeper, according to Root.
Because batsman Ollie Pope made 81 on his England return in that match, Jonny Bairstow, who kept wicket at the Oval, is likely to miss out.
After Somerset left-armer Jack Leach been recalled in addition to Moeen Ali, England could play two spinners at Old Trafford.
Root admitted that failing to manage critical pressure points had “actually harmed us.”
A dearth of runs from anyone other than England’s captain, the world’s top-ranked test batter, has also been a problem.
This series, Root has scored 564 runs at an average of 94, including three hundreds, with England’s next-best contribution of 184 runs at 26.28 from Bairstow.
“Can you be the one to go and make that big score and to really put us in a position of strength, be part of a really significant partnership?” Root pleaded with his squad.