All the talk going around on social media after the toss was that Virat Kohli was being stubborn by once again not picking Ravichandran Ashwin at The Oval, which is known to assist spin. All the cricket pundits said India would definitely miss Ashwin in the second innings on this flat Oval pitch.
When England who were chasing a mammoth 368 in the last innings, and did not lose any wickets in the 32 overs they batted and were sitting pretty at 77, all four results looked possible and most importantly - the word from every expert was India will find it difficult to pick 10 wickets on the last day without Ashwin.
But Virat Kohli and his team had other ideas. Their fast bowlers, especially Jasprit Bumrah, was devastating with his reverse swing when he knocked off Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow in back-to-back overs to make India believe they can pull off this victory. India had 90 overs to get the 10 wickets on the last day but India needed 60 overs today to pull off their only second victory at Oval after 1971 to take 2-1 lead against the hosts.
When the toss happened, India had picked Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur and every expert felt Ashwin should have been picked. Shardul, who is called ‘Lord Thakur’ by the fans and ‘Beefy’ by his teammates, had a terrific game. He scored back-to-back fifties and his crucial runs in the first innings saved India from another low score. He also picked three wickets and the wicket of Joe Root in the second innings were priceless.
So did Umesh Yadav, who got four wickets in the first innings to limit England’s lead to just 99 and 3 wickets in the second and also scored handy runs in both the innings.
VVS Laxman felt shwin should be picked ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, but he too played a crucial part in picking four wickets in the match. All in all, everyone in the XI barring vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, had a decent game and contributed to India’s win.
Kohli said at the post-match presentation that this bowling performance by team India would rate among the top three which he has seen as a captain. And now, he can rightly claim after this emphatic victory his team got on the last day. The best way to silence your critics is with result-oriented performance and that’s what’s Kohli and his team has done.
Cricket enthusiast and businessman Anis Sajan is Vice Chairman of Danube Group