After a strong fightback on Day 3 of the Headingley Test, India’s batting crumbled within a session on Saturday, losing their last eight wickets within a space of 16 overs. England took the game by an innings and 76 runs, thereby drawing 1-1 level in the series with two games remaining.
India’s familiar collapse
India’s solid resistance on Day 3 against a deficit of 354 promised much, with their most experienced batting pair of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli staging a firm fightback. However, as was the case on the first morning of the game, England bowlers stamped themselves all over the visitors on Day 4, wrapping up the game within two hours.
Pujara, approaching his first Test hundred since January 2019, failed to add to his overnight score as he misjudged an incoming Ollie Robinson delivery to shoulder arms, while Kohli once again pushed at one to find the outside edge. Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant too, departed in quick succession, as India lost their last eight wickets for mere 63 runs within 16 overs.
India’s inconsistent batting had almost cost them the game at Lord’s, before Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami turned unlikely heroes. The innings defeat might well prompt some changes to the batting line-up, as the visitors seek their first series win in England since 2007, with two games remaining.
Robinson continues to impress
Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer’s absence might well have served England more than fine, as a 27-year-old Ollie Robinson has rapidly risen through the ranks in the ongoing summer.
After a mighty impressive debut against New Zealand at Lord’s, where he bagged seven wickets across two innings, Robinson has extended his brilliance against India, having bagged 16 wickets from the first three games - the most for anyone in the series at this point.
On Saturday, the right-arm quick ended India’s chances of any fightback, removing Pujara, Kohli and Pant in quick succession, after he’d sent back a well-set Rohit Sharma on Day 3. In the last over of his fiery eight-over spell, Robinson had Ishant Sharma caught-behind to register his second Test five-for.
Already leading the wicket-taking charts in first-class cricket in 2021, Robinson’s brilliance against the top-two ranked sides might well have already booked him a ticket to the Ashes tour Down Under later this year. As it stands, England have certainly found a gem as they look upon a new era of fast bowlers, with Stuart Broad and James Anderson in the twilight of their respective careers.
India’s heavy defeat sparks selection debates once again
The innings defeat has put India with quite a few selection questions going into the fourth Test at The Oval. They have gone into the three Tests with six specialist batsmen, trusting Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja’s form of late. However, the inconsistent middle-order has exposed the lower half far too often - a definite worrying sign against the quality of England.
Rahane in particular, has been far away from his best in recent times and his returns of 18 and 10 in the third Test might just have opened the doors for Hanuma Vihari, who had scored an impressive fifty on his Test debut at The Oval - the venue for the fourth Test.
There’s a good argument to include Ravichandran Ashwin too, with conditions at The Oval traditionally suited to spin bowling. The top-ranked spin bowler currently could be a smart choice even at Ravindra Jadeja’s expense, with the latter having managed just two wickets from 76 overs he’s bowled in the series.