In the end, England died by the sword, having preferred to live by it. The most crucial knock came in one fell swoop: Shreyas Iyer dived from mid-wicket and played a straight pick-and-throw hit that caught Ben Stokes napping when England still needed 179 to win. However, defeat was not a foregone conclusion for this team. They continued to battle through a 55-run partnership between Ben Foakes and Tom Hartley before falling to the collective power of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah, who shared six wickets of England’s second innings to seal a 106-run victory here on Monday .
Coming into this Test without Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja, India needed their young and experienced players to stand up and be counted to avoid losing two Tests in a row. And that’s exactly what they did. Yashasvi Jaiswal scored a hundred in the first innings, Shubman Gill scored a career-resurrecting hundred in the second, but it was Bumrah’s haul of 9/91 that proved too much for England.
“I am very, very proud of such a young team in terms of the Test matches they have played,” India captain Rohit Sharma said after the win. “To go up against a team like that, (who) won the first test match, and then go out and play like that for us, (is) very, very positive. When you win a game like this you have to look at the overall performance. “We know that winning a Test match in these conditions will not be easy, the players stepped up.”
With the series tied 1-1, India can now use the long break to probably analyze where they could put in more effort in England. Failing to consolidate with Jaiswal and Gill’s knocks to score big scores in both innings has raised flags within the team. “It was really good to bat on the wicket,” Sharma said. “That’s where, if I have to point out something, a lot of hitters started, but they didn’t convert it into a big score; (That’s) something we really need to look at.”
This was England’s third defeat in 11 fourth-innings chases since Brendon McCullum took charge of this team with Stokes as captain in the summer of 2022. “We had full faith in ourselves that we could chase that,” Stokes said After the match. The way we have faced challenges like that is our mission. In moments like that, when you have pressure on the scoreboard, that’s when we bring out the best in ourselves as individuals. The way we pushed ourselves and put India under pressure was great, unfortunately we didn’t end up on the good side of the result.”
While the margin of 106 runs may seem large, India should note that England’s 292 is already the second-highest fourth innings total by a visiting team. Partly responsible for this was India’s insipid fielding. Starting the day 332 runs behind, the onus was on England to nullify Bumrah and Ashwin. But with the field spread out, England got off to an easy start as India almost seemed overly confident in the likelihood of England getting it wrong as they attacked.
By the time Axar Patel was beaten for consecutive boundaries in his second over of the day, the full and alarming implications of England’s mentality were becoming abundantly clear. More so, when Zak Crawley took two boundaries from Bumrah, the latter dazzled to make an emphatic statement. Rehan Ahmed entertained while he batted. But with Ollie Pope, the chase suddenly became more real. Pope raced to 23 off 21 balls before Ashwin forced him to play a ball that he had not bounced enough off the back foot. He still played the cut but got a thick edge and Sharma reflexively caught the slip.
With Root suffering from a finger injury, he wasn’t going to hang around either. He reverse swept Ashwin’s first ball. Another reverse sweep left Ashwin dazed but he quickly shortened his length to induce a hoick which ended in a leading edge and was caught comfortably by Patel at back point.
With Crawley reducing the total, England were still in charge of the chase despite losing two big wickets. But Kuldeep Yadav chose the right time to make his presence felt. He threw a spinner that Crawley failed to stab. Referred after umpire Marais Erasmus failed to give up, replays showed the ball had not turned enough and would have hit the leg stump, thus ending a vigilant 73 off 132 balls in England’s opener.
That dismissal should have sent England into repair mode, but they were clearly in no mood for half-measures. Jonny Bairstow repeatedly risked his attacks against Bumrah, but on the stroke of lunch, he was hit on the back leg by a late-formed delivery from Bumrah.
The first session produced 127 runs in 28.4 overs, but once Stokes and Foakes met after lunch the game slowed. With the Barmy Army belting out Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ to aptly sum up the scene for away fans, the pair cautiously took England past 200. But just when they might have started to think about changing march and charge for A seemingly impossible goal, Foakes called on Stokes for that fateful single.