The third Specsavers Test between England and India was a match that came with interesting questions. Would England continue their dominance over their visitors, or would India finally get their act together and realise they are a team that consists of more than one man?
India made three changes to their team. As expected, Dinesh Karthik was dropped in place of debutant Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav was dropped for the fit again Jasprit Bumrah, and struggling opener Murali Vijay was dropped for Shikhar Dhawan.
England made one change, Sam Curran was dropped in place of Ben Stokes, which I think was very unfair on Curran, who did nothing to warrant getting dropped. I would have dropped Rashid if anything.
Joe Root won the toss for the third consecutive time, and elected to bowl first in overcast conditions. It was going to be tough for India’s openers, but they had to give their team a good platform, they had to fight through the first hour, get the shine off the new ball and make life a little easier for the remaining batsmen.
India scored a very respectable 329 in their first innings which was largely thanks to a mammoth 159 run partnership between Ajinkya Rahane (81) and Virat Kohli, who fell agonisingly short of another Test century, as he fell to a wide ball from Adil Rashid for 97. India for once, had runs on the board though, and they proved they could bat in difficult conditions.
For the first time this series, England had to bat when the conditions were against them. Their batsmen had to suffer at the hands of the seaming and swinging ball and they couldn’t cope.
England got off to a fairly positive start, getting to 46-0 at lunch before the ever typical English collapse returned. Shortly after lunch, Ishant Sharma bowled a beauty of a ball to dismiss Cook for 29 and the very next ball, Jasprit Bumrah got the edge of Jennings for 20. England were 54-2.
Hardik Pandya had been given some stick during and after the second Test, from commentator Michael Holding in particular, saying that he does not think Pandya should be considered an all-rounder yet.
Pandya certainly proved him wrong, he had the golden arm in England’s first innings and struck with his very first delivery, when he induced the edge of England captain Joe Root to slip. This decision went upstairs as Root was unconvinced that the ball was taken cleanly, TV replays showed that it had been and Root had to walk off. He did so by shaking his head, at what though, your guess is as good as mine. The ball went straight into KL Rahul’s hands, it was a clean catch. Root had nothing to complain about.
That gave Pandya the confidence he needed. He bowled six overs and achieved his first five-for in Test Cricket, with best figures of 5-28 as England were dismissed for a paltry 161, and a first innings deficit of 168.
India went into their 2nd innings with a huge lead and the rub of the green was with them for a change. As they came out to bat for their 2nd innings, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were inspired, scoring at over 5 runs an over. They got to their second consecutive 50 run opening stand of the match as India’s lead grew.
Virat Kohli’s final frontier was the UK. Could he be as brilliant in the UK as he has shown he can be in the rest of the world? I was of the firm belief he could.
All the talk was of Kohli’s miserable 2014 tour. But I do not think too much should’ve been read into that. Kohli was 25 years old on India’s last tour, he had only been playing Test Cricket for 3 years and he didn’t have the experience he has now. There was never a doubt in my mind that he was going to be as majestic on this tour as he was in South Africa earlier this year.
Cheteshwar Pujara made a lovely and patient 72 in India’s 2nd innings that saw him in a 113 run stand with his captain, Kohli, who went onto score his 23rd Test century. It was a wonderful spectacle of sheer excellence from Kohli that took the attack to England.
It is with the utmost confidence when I say that Virat Kohli is by far, the best batsman in the world, even if Steve Smith wasn’t banned, Kohli would still be the best batsman. He has scored 440 runs so far on this tour, the next best is Jonny Bairstow of England with 206 runs. England’s best batsman, Joe Root has scored 129 runs, although to be fair, Kohli has had two more innings than him so far. Despite this though, the rate at which Kohli is scoring, the ease at which he is scoring, is testament to how incredible he is.
India declared on 352-7, but not before Pandya continued his excellent game by scoring a run-a-ball fifty, his fourth Test fifty, as India set England the highly improbable target of 521.
England got to stumps on day 3 on 23-0, trailing by 498. India need the more likely 10 wickets to win.
The day belonged entirely to Kohli, the Test has belonged to India, it has been a fantastic all round effort from youngster Hardik Pandya, and India are in the driving seat.
It has taken India two Test matches, but they have finally arrived. Long may it last.