At 145/5, India were in a spot of bother on the third day of the Test before the middle-order in combination with the tail took them to a total of 278 runs, with a 95 run lead over England. England in response were 25/0, still 70 runs behind India’s first innings total, going into the fourth day.
Ollie Robinson and a well-needed relentlessness for England
England’s three options - James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Sam Curran - definitely provided the hosts’ control in the first Test in Nottingham but none of them provided that dimension that would be the real difference-maker. In Mark Wood’s absence, the Three Lions backed and backed Ollie Robinson to the tilt, following his impactful performance in the first Test against New Zealand. Against the BlackCaps, the pacer proved that he was a real handful for the visitors, with his relentlessness, both with the good length and the short-balls.
Since records began in 2006, according to Cricviz, the Sussex pacer has bowled 48% of his deliveries in good line and length percentage in Test cricket, the highest for an English seamer. On the second day of play, the pacer had not bowled enough deliveries that would have hit the stumps, which resulted in two lost reviews for the hosts. It later increased to 49% as the play progressed with 40% of his deliveries resulting in false shots. According to Cricviz’s xAverage, Robinson’s numbers should have been 20.9, which means that he was at the helm of things against India despite having played just one Test in his entire career.
A combination of things worked for him - short deliveries, good length on the corridor of uncertainty and relentlessness has not just helped Robinson but ensured that the Sussex pacer’s worth was of immense value to the Three Lions, ending up with his maiden fifer, with a spell of 5/85.
Ravindra Jadeja continues to prove his worth
Since 2018, Ravindra Jadeja's worth as an all-rounder has grown multitude but when India picked him ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin for the first Test, there was an element of doubt. Not whether he would turn up with the ball but whether Jadeja, the all-rounder would learn from the failure against New Zealand, where he exposed the tail-enders in the most crucial time for India. But Jadeja shut down all the doubts here in Nottingham, taking up responsibility and living up to the expectations that surrounded it. In the last three years, the left-handed all-rounder has scored 581 runs for India, having faced 1088 deliveries, averaging 44.69.
At 145/5, the pressure was certainly on the all-rounder to stay at the crease and etch a partnership alongside KL Rahul. For the duo, it was a deja-vu moment, having stitched a 127-run partnership in the warm-up fixture against the County Select XI. The duo here in Nottingham showed similar signs of composure and calm, batting in tandem. While Rahul got out having scored 84, Jadeja combined with Shardul first and then Shami to put on a show. The left-handed all-rounder scored an 86-ball 56, he clearly showed more control and calm in the middle of a hectic session for the Men in Blue.
While Jadeja might be batting at No.7 right now, the way he went about his innings wasn't anything short of how a top-order batsman in his glory days would in England. With such batting performances, the left-hander continues to show that on tracks that aren't assisting the spinners, he would be the best option to slot in as the all-rounder until India find a seaming all-rounder. Or is it time that India, perhaps, just perhaps could utilise him up the order?
Indian tail finally comes home wagging
At 205/6, with a lead of just 22 runs, India had a humongous task in front of them, not just to set England a daunting prospect in the second innings but to take advantage of all the available sessions. Last December, India had learnt the importance of a wagging tail in Adelaide, later this year, they learnt it the hard way against New Zealand in the World Test Championship final. So having endured all the pain in the past, India had a fresh slate in front of them, they could write a history of their own. At one end, there was Ravindra Jadeja and at the other, Shardul Thakur.
While Thakur was dismissed for a duck, the trio of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj accompanying Jadeja was a handy prospect. It was always going to be a fun sight, the Indian tail with the bat but it became even more fun when the context was well set, Ajinkya Rahane’s quotes on the bowlers practising hard in the nets. In the 2018 series, it was the tail-enders who cost the visitors the series, in 2021, it had to change.
Alongside Jadeja, who scored an 86-ball 56, the tail combined to take India to 278, with Shami scoring 13, Bumrah 28 and Siraj 7. From 9-11, the Indians had already outscored their innings tally from the 2018 series and more importantly, it handed them an unreal 95 run advantage heading into the last session on Day 3. For a team that had suffered the wrath of several tails from around the world, India had marauded the hosts with one of their own.