SEPTEMBER 6, 2021
Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav all contributed too, as England lost 4 for 6 on the final afternoon to decisively swing the match
Brief Scorecard: India 191 (Thakur 57, Kohli 50, Woakes 4-55) and 466 (Rohit 127, Pujara 61, Thakur 60, Pant 50, Woakes 3-83) beat England 290 (Pope 81, Woakes 50, Umesh 3-76) and 210 (Hameed 63, Burns 50, Umesh 3-60) by 157 runs
Jasprit Bumrah’s devastating reverse-swing, Ravindra Jadeja’s miserly spell into the rough and crucial breakthroughs from Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur took India into a 2-1 series lead against England, sealing a 157-run win that had seemed improbable for much of the fourth Test at The Oval.
India were 127 for 7 on the first afternoon, conceded a 99-run first-innings lead, and watched England’s openers pile up an unbroken 100-run partnership on the final morning on a flat pitch offering almost nothing for their bowlers. But, after fine individual performances from Thakur and Rohit Sharma had forced them back into the game after the early obstacles, their attack split six wickets in 22.4 dramatic overs to turn the game decisively on the final afternoon, led by Bumrah’s remarkable spell with the old ball.
India’s task on the final day – take 10 wickets in 90 overs – was plain but hardly straightforward. They had opted to leave out their best spinner, R Ashwin, and the pitch had offered nothing for England’s seamers in the second innings. But they succeeded where England had failed, rotating their attack with great effect, using Jadeja to rough up the old ball, and giving their seamers the opportunity to rip through the middle order with reverse-swing. Bumrah’s high-class spell after lunch – 2 for 6 in six overs – was particularly crucial as he spearheaded a collapse of four wickets for six runs, and Umesh finished things off with the final two wickets after tea.
England started the day hopeful of pulling off an improbable fourth-innings run chase for the third summer in a row after wins against Australia and Pakistan in the last two years. Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed had both batted fluently on the fourth evening and brought up half-centuries and a 100-run opening partnership but Burns fell immediately after.
It was Thakur who made the first breakthrough. He had spoken to Sky Sports in their build-up to the final day, revealing India’s optimism about the prospect of getting the ball to reverse thanks to Jadeja scuffing up one side bowling into the rough, and now he managed to move the old ball away from Burns’ outside edge after angling it in from around the wicket. Rishabh Pant took a straightforward chance after a thin nick.
With Jadeja finding turn and bite from the rough outside Dawid Malan’s off stump, England were bogged down. Hameed struggled to score against the seamers – he added only 19 runs to his overnight 43 while batting through the morning session – and with the prospect of victory still at the back of their minds, the pressure to score paid. Hameed nudged Jadeja into the covers and called Malan through for a single, but Mayank Agarwal – on as a sub fielder for Rohit – threw quickly and cleanly to Pant in time to beat Malan’s dive.
Joe Root came out firing after lunch, reverse-sweeping the first ball of the afternoon session for four as if to warn Jadeja that landing the ball in the rough outside the right-handers’ leg stump would not be enough. But Jadeja stuck to his guns, spinning one past Hameed’s outside edge to peg his off stump back as he looked to guide a single to cover with an open face, and England never recovered.
Bumrah sensed an opening and began to reverse the ball prodigiously, moving it late, hitting speeds of 88mph/142kph and targeting the stumps. His full length and late tail was enough to burst through Ollie Pope’s defence, angling in from wide on the crease and beating him on the inside edge. It was a fitting dismissal for his 100th in Tests, brought up in his 24th appearance to break Kapil Dev’s record for fastest to the landmark by an Indian fast bowler.
Root survived a tight lbw appeal on review in the following over, DRS confirming Jadeja had pitched the ball outside leg stump, but Bumrah was purring and struck moments later. He beat Jonny Bairstow with the first ball of his over, full and reversing away, before turning it around on its axis and zipping it through him with a fast, in-ducking yorker two balls later. India were ecstatic, Kohli geeing the crowd up in celebration, and England’s hopes were in tatters.
Kohli’s explanation at the toss for Ashwin’s continued omission was that Jadeja would provide him with a good match-up against England’s left-handers, which prompted some confusion given Ashwin’s record against them. But Jadeja’s success vindicated his selection: he struck with the first ball he bowled to Moeen Ali, turning one sharply out of the rough created by the right-arm seamers and inducing a hard-handed poke away from the body, which gave Suryakumar Yadav – the other sub fielder – a simple catch at short leg. The slide was four wickets for six runs, enough to turn the game on its head.
Virat Kohli leaps in celebration as the DRS confirms last-man James Anderson is out. – Getty Images
India had time to take two more wickets before tea, including the crucial scalp of Root. Kohli opted to delay the second new ball, bringing Thakur back to bowl the 81st with the reversing old one, and an innocuous, back-of-a-length ball proved deadly: Root looked to run it down to third man, but inside-edged onto his stumps.
Craig Overton survived two tight calls, first dropped at third slip by Ajinkya Rahane, then successfully overturning an lbw decision given against him as Bumrah thudded one into his pad. But Woakes, who had looked solid for his 18, offered a low chance to KL Rahul at short midwicket to give Umesh Yadav his first wicket, and England were eight down at the interval.
India belatedly took the new ball shortly after tea and Umesh struck again, finding extra bounce from a length as Overton played on via the elbow, wincing in pain as he trudged off. James Anderson was the last man out, fending a catch behind to give Umesh a third that was given out on-field and upheld on review.
Kohli and India celebrated a fine win that had looked unlikely for large swathes of the match, completed despite the absence of their head coach, Ravi Shastri, and two injured senior players in Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara being off the field through the final innings. England, by contrast, were left facing up to the prospect of consecutive series losses at home – unless they can square this one in Manchester – leading into an away Ashes this winter.