On that count alone India’s win over England by 157 runs on Monday will recall fond memories for a long time. But of course, that is not the only reason. The dramatic events over five days, the twists and the turns, the high quality of cricket saw to it that this was the traditional format of the game at its best. It was in short, the perfect advertisement for Test cricket.
The final result symbolized victory for a never say die attitude. This Indian team has enormous self-belief and the confidence level is sky high. A triumph for team work may be a cliché but this win epitomized this. Except for the luckless Ajinkya Rahane everyone made a contribution big or small. Nothing symbolized this more than the bowling. There was no dominant figure, there was not even a four-wicket haul and five bowlers shared 18 wickets between them, there being two run outs.
It is not every time that a team which is 127 for seven on the first morning ends up winning by a huge margin of 157 runs. Before the Oval Test the batting had not lived up to its lofty reputation – particularly the middle order – and the victory in the second Test at Lord’s had largely been scripted by the bowlers. This time however the batsmen and bowlers performed in unison to seal a victory that has ensured that India now cannot lose the series.
But with the confidence level being as high as it is there is every reason to believe that India can wrap up the series at Old Trafford perhaps with another win. Yes, one is aware that after the victory at Lord’s they were brought down to earth with a sickening thud at Leeds. But now with the batting having joined forces with the bowling, it is going to be an uphill task for England to salvage the series in the final Test commencing on Friday.
That said it must be stated that the bowling has been the stand out department and if India are 2-1 ahead with one match to go much of the credit goes to Messrs Bumrah, Shami and Siraj. The trio has not given the England batsmen any respite, they have harassed them time and again with their line and length, their pace and accuracy and the bouncers and the yorkers. Bumrah is clearly already a superstar and the record for reaching 100 wickets in just 24 Tests – the fastest for an Indian paceman – is just reward for Indian cricket’s newest talisman.
A lot of credit must also be given to Rohit Sharma. It isn’t easy making a highly successful transition from limited overs cricket to Test matches and the 34-year-old Mumbai batsmen has struggled for long before striking it rich. At the top of the order he has found his calling and is now suddenly a tower of strength as an opening batsman, much the same way that he is a commanding figure in ODIs and T-20s. He and KL Rahul have emerged as a reliable opening pair which is just as well for the middle order hasn’t really fired in the ongoing series even if there are indications of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli performing up to expectations.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal)