Kolkata: Lionised one moment, only to be ripped apart at the next - the Indian cricket team has moved between one extreme to other in the ongoing Test series in England. However, an extremely resilient performance in the last four days at The Oval saw Virat Kohli’s men go ahead in the series 2-1, ensuring that they cannot lose the series from here.
While the hype around the five-Test series has been built around if India could capture the ‘Final Frontier,’ what has transpired so far had been a series of absorbing battles in what was a great advertisement for Test cricket. When India were all out 191 in first innings, thanks largely to the late heroics from unlikely hero Shardul Thakur, the general perception was they were a good 100-odd runs short to stage a comeback in the series on a easy batting surface.
The script changed and how - and one must thank a collective team effort like at the Lord’s which helped India claw back into the match and eventually pull off a thrilling win. May be, their Oval win resembled a bit like their heist at the Gabba earlier with Thakur showing the temperament with the bat, Rishabh Pant deciding to mend his ways after some poor shot selection throughout the series - but it would not have been possible without that masterclass of a century from Rohit Sharma and the two patient efforts from the skipper after being panned right through the series for his persisting doubt about his off stump.
Back to Thakur again. One remembers that Bharath Arun, India’s astute bowling boach, saying before the series that they wanted to groom the Mumbai allrounder to make up for the absence of Hardik Pandya. He played in the rain-affected first Test at Trent Bridge before Kohli fell back to the theory of a four-pronged pace attack and maintaining stubbornly that he didn’t need a sixth batsman - though Thakur’s success with the bat (not to speak of the guile as a seam bowler) in both innings showed that such a balance only makes for common sense.
England, much to their chagrin, will suddenly find that their batting becomes a different beast without the success of captain Joe Root. Till the third Test, the No.1 ranked Test batsman in the world had been on a purple patch with three centuries in as many Test matches but at The Oval, he failed to convert the starts as he fell for 21 and 36, respectively.
This made a huge difference to the outcome - not to forget the fact that they were at the middle without Jos Buttler in this Test - apart from of course Ben Stokes.
The series can only go one way from here, but be braced for another humdinger at the Old Trafford in a few days’ time...