IND Vs ENG: A match goes down to the last minute of the final day of the test match and none of team could muster a result; this is something which has not happened at all in India in test matches in the last five years until today. The match that looked like a draw in all probability at the end of the fourth day`s play, did end as a draw but not without some anxious moments with a chance of an possible India loss or England win, as you would call it.
England was well ahead at the start of the fifth day`s play as Cook and Hameed both batted on to collect their half centuries. Hameed missed the century on debut as he perished off the bowling of Amit Mishra while Cook kept going on to notch up his 30th test century. Along with Ben Stokes he pushed the total lead to 309 before he got dismissed for 130 runs and declared the innings at 260 for 3. England left a target of 310 runs and a minimum of 49 overs for India to play. There was a sense of disappointment in England fans as a lot of them thought that England left too little time for their bowlers to enforce a result. The pitch had stayed flat on all the days and did not do much on the last day as well except an occasional delivery misbehaving a bit.
Cricket is a funny game as it has shown on countless occasions and it almost proved it today as well. Gambhir got out for a duck off Woakes to give England the initial momentum. Vijay and Pujara batted together for sometime to calm the nerves of the Indian dressing room before an error from he umpire cost Pujara his wicket. Pujara was adjudged LBW off the bowling of Adil Rashid when the ball had clearly pitched outside the leg stump. Pujara himself was at fault as he did not opt for a review. They had together put on 47 runs inside 15 overs.
India went into tea at 49 for 2 in 18 overs, with Vijay and Virat at the crease. With just one session to go and 8 wickets in hand, India would have felt pretty comfortable to close the match with a draw, but drama unfolded at the other side of the break as Vijay and Rahane walked off in quick succession to leave India at 71 for 4 in the 24th over. With a minimum of 25 overs more remaining in the day, Ashwin joined Virat at the crease.
Virat looked comfortable against all bowlers and kept one end tight while Ashwin also began to look settled. Ashwin had played 50 balls for his 20 runs before yet another over started from left arm spinner Zafar Ansari. Ansari bowled loose deliveries as Ashwin scored 3 boundaries off the first five balls and perhaps those easy runs lead to a break in his concentration as Ashwin tried to forcibly drive the last ball as well for a boundary, but got caught in the covers. India was 118 for 5 with a minimum of 10 overs still left. Virat was firm at one end while new man Saha, trying to be positive, perished after just 13 deliveries.
Indian team was 6 down then and staring down the barrel as England looked firm favourites to win. India’s batting depth came to its rescue as Ravindra Jadeja came out to bat at No.8. The ball was not doing too much as Virat and Jadeja, not just played out the overs but also scored freely in the dying moments of the game. At the end of the stipulated time, India finished at 172 for 6 in 52.3 overs with Kohli unbeaten on 49 off 98 balls and Jadeja unbeaten on 32 off just 33 deliveries.
England had won the toss earlier and opted to bat first on a placid Rajkot pitch. India fielders missed atleast 3 clear catches in the first 6 overs of the match to let England off. England sent the Indians on a leather hunt as they socred a mammoth 537 runs in their first innings, riding on superb centuries from Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes. India played well in reply with Vijay and Pujara getting hundreds and stitching together a partnership of 211 runs. Contributions from Kohli (40), Ashwin (70) and Saha (35) helped India score 488 runs in their first innings giving England a lead of 49 runs.
The pitch favoured the batsmen clearly as we saw a total of 6 centuries in the match but the bowlers had their part to play and had the fielders not dropped so many catches, the result could have been something else. But an important part that can be inferred and looks a bit worrying for the Indians is that the England spinners looked much more menacing than the Indian spinners. Rashid in particular, got maximum purchase off the track and looked very difficult to get away and a his tally of 7 wickets in the match is a proof of that.
With England’s entire batting lineup looking in good form, the Indian bowlers have their task cut out. This is definitely going to be a tough series ahead for both the teams.
IND Vs ENG, 1st Test, Rajkot (Score)
England 537 & 260/3d
India 488 & 172/6 (52.3 ov)