Team India win at The Oval v England 2021 4th Test

This is Team India, they make things happen!

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It’s not an easy task to make a comeback and eventually win the match when you are 99 runs behind the home team, with three more days remaining.

It’s very tough to stay alive in the contest and give yourself a shot at winning when you have a meagre 213-run lead with just four wickets and more than one-and-a-half-day of play remaining, that too with an out-of-form batsman and a lower-order player at the crease. 

Winning is an improbable task when you have just 290 runs to defend on the final day and 10 more wickets to pick, that too when your best spinner and two Premier pacers are missing and you have to bowl on one of the flattest fifth day decks ever encountered. 

While these statements could have been true for most Test teams around, the team that found themselves in these situations over the period of the last five days, and still went on to win, was the same group that went on to win a series down under after being bowled out for 36 in the first match. This is the same team that went on to register a victory at Lord’s a couple of weeks back after it looked like they were down and out of the contest until the final day.

This is Team India, they make things happen!

Conceding a lead of 99-runs to England while going into your second innings can’t be good for any visiting team, especially when you are coming on the back of a loss in the previous match, which also includes an innings where you were bowled out for a meagre total of 78.

It doesn’t help your confidence in any way and only increases the pressure on you. But when you have a character and attitude like that of this Indian setup, anything is possible for you.

No word is good enough to compliment this Indian team. 

Yes, it’s quite annoying and hurts really bad when they underperform severely and end up getting bowled out for 36, or say, 78.

But every time this Indian team is pushed to the corner, they come back harder at you. Every time you try to get under their skin, you will end up regretting it. Challenges fuel them up and adversity only makes them stronger.

Go and take a look back at their performances in Sydney and at The Gabba. Take a look at their comeback at Lord’s, and now look at how they turned things around at The Oval once again. You will know what this team is made up of.

Confidence, grit, determination, resolve, temperament, never-say-die spirit and a supreme set of skills. 

What Shardul Thakur did at The Gabba, he has done at The Oval once again. Counter-attacking fifties in both innings out of nowhere, that too when England were on top and the favourites to win the match. And then the all-important wickets of Ollie Pope, Rory Burns and Joe Root, all of whom threatened to take the game away from India, at crucial stages of the game.

 

Rohit Sharma, whose credentials as a Test batsman were questioned until a couple of years back, went on to score his first Overseas Test Hundred and that too when the team needed it the most. It was an innings which had class written all over it and probably the first effort that swung the momentum of the game in India’s favour.

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A batsman like Cheteshwar Pujara, who hasn’t looked to be in his zone for a long time, played with a refreshingly attacking approach and added valuable 61 runs to the side as well.

Rishabh Pant, who has been seen struggling with his batting all throughout this series, also grinded his way to a fighting fifty, that too when the team needed to bide time at the crease and extend their lead as well.

And what do you say about Jasprit Bumrah? Just consider yourself blessed and extremely lucky if you are playing on the same side.

‘Just give me the ball’ is what he said to Virat Kohli when he started one of the most memorable spells by an Indian pacer on English soil. With pace, reverse swing, deadly accuracy and the desire to make things happen, Bumrah produced an absolute masterclass on a lifeless fifth day pitch. 

He got Ollie Pope out with a beauty that swung away after pitching on middle and off, and started producing one toe-crushing yorker after another following Pope’s dismissal. It was quite fascinating to see how he was never missing the mark with any of his yorkers and it was no surprise when he sent Jonny Bairstow back to the pavilion with one of those fireballs. Bumrah was about to repeat the same when he bowled a similar delivery to Root, who somehow managed to survive by getting the toe-end of the bat to the ball.

 

22 overs for just 27 runs. 9 maidens and two wickets that changed the game completely. That’s what Bumrah is known for doing and he did that once again to turn the odds in India’s favour.

Even the likes of Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja need to be applauded for their contributions. While Umesh showed good control over his line and length in both innings, and got two set batsmen in Dawid Malan and Joe Root dismissed in the first innings as well, Jadeja showed what he brings to the table in overseas conditions.

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Jadeja bowled a total of 47 overs in the match, conceding runs at an economy rate of just 1.83, and picked up four crucial wickets as well. Even though he doesn’t bring the same wicket-taking threat as Ravichandran Ashwin, he showed what can be achieved by putting a tight leash around the English batsmen, while the Indian seamers went about their business from the other end.

Last but not the least, it’s skipper Virat Kohli who deserves an equal applause as well. His contributions of 50 and 44 might not have been among the most impactful performances in the game, but those were crucial contributions in the context of the match nevertheless. Moreover, just his mere presence and energy in the field fires his teammates up. It motivates them to give their best. After all, he backs his teammates to the hilt, so it’s only natural for them to feel that way for him. He is the heart of this team and it is evident looking at the way the players talk about him.

This team has now pulled off similar heists four times this year already and have gone on to win on three of those occasions, with the other resulting in a draw that also felt equivalent to a win. Miracles happen once, maybe even twice. But considering even the third and fourth times as miracles would mean undermining the skillset of  the individuals who made these spectacles possible. That would mean severe injustice to their abilities.

 

This was India’s first win at The Oval after 50 years. None of the other setups over the years came even close in achieving this. That proves that the skills of this team are unmatched. That they are the best team in the world right now, and also probably the best Indian team you have ever witnessed. 

You might still not be happy with some of their decisions — leaving Ravichandran Ashwin out of the first XI and backing an out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane for example. 

But that’s how they are. That’s how they roll. They back their decisions, right or wrong, they trust what they see and feel, and they are getting the results with it, as summed up by Virat Kohli after the match, “We never go towards statistics, we know what we focus on, we take a call on what feels best and we believe we can win Tests with it. Whatever the noise on the outside, it doesn’t bother us.”



Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer and the Co-founder of CricXtasy with bylines across various reputed national and international publications like Cricbuzz, The Cricketer, The Hindu, The New Daily, Firstpost, The Quint and The Citizen among others. You can find him on Twitter @CricPrasen