ENG v IND Report Card: A psychological blow at enervating Edgbaston

India lost the five-match Test series 4-1, and the One Day Internationals 2-1; head coach Ravi Shastri feels it’s still the best side in 15 years. Hear from our correspondents.

Virat Kohli was a one-man army holding India's hopes alive in Birmingham. The eventual 31-run loss was perhaps a psychological barrier that was hard to overcome. Photo: Getty Images

Birmingham blues

Many believe India’s debacle at Lord’s was the turning point in the series, but I would like to differ. For me, the series gained its contours from the first Test at Edgbaston, where India suffered a 31-run loss. It set England’s tone for the rest of the series. It was evident that things would only have become tough from there for the Indian side and that is what happened.

Even though India showed some promise in the third Test and beyond, one felt it was a bit too late to chase the series.

The first Test was India’s match to lose and the visiting side fumbled. That did beat the team’s confidence — something the top batsmen failed to gain even in the next four weeks.

Key Moment: One of the key moments of the series was Alastair Cook signing off from international cricket with a century. Cook’s ride with the England side has been quite phenomenal. Of late, his poor form came under scanner and there was a feeling that he has passed his prime. So, perhaps the decision to quit was quite timely and to add icing to the cake, that century in the final Test proved why Cook will remain a fighter.

Game-changing performance: Before the series got underway, there were concerns over James Anderson’s fitness. But the old warhorse proved the critics wrong by putting Indian batsmen under pressure. He looked unplayable at times and even surpassed Glenn McGrath’s record of 563 wickets.

Shayan Acharya

 

One-man show

India’s hopes of starting the five-Test series with a win were propped up by captain Virat Kohli, who scored a century in the first innings and a fifty in the second in the Birmingham Test to finish with 200 runs in the match. India began the fourth day needing 84 to win with five wickets in hand, and with Kohli still batting. When Ben Stokes finally trapped Kohli leg-before-wicket, India was reduced to 141 for 7, still needing 53 runs to go 1-0 up. The visitor lost its last three wickets for 22 runs, slipping to a loss in a contest it could have won rather comfortably.

While a win in the third Test in Nottingham had kept India alive, the narrow defeat in the opening Test may have proved to be a psychological barrier — one that ultimately proved too hard to overcome.

Key moment: K. L. Rahul’s innings of 149 may not have won India the fifth Test at The Oval but will go a long way in boosting the morale of the opener. Rahul, who stitched together a 204-run stand with wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, had struggled for runs throughout the series, raising doubts over his place in the side. Rahul is an all-format player and his ability to shift gears according to the situation will hold India in good stead when it travels to Australia later this year.

Game-changing performance: Hardik Pandya claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket as England folded for 161 in response to India's 329 in the first innings of the third Test in Nottingham. The Baroda all-rounder had paved the way for a win that would keep India afloat in the series.

— Ayan Acharya

 

The narrow margin

On August 4, Saturday, the weather in Bengaluru had started behaving normal after a prolonged summer. The air carried a thin layer of chill. It enhanced the mood. I was visiting my relatives, and I had shut cricket to self-assure my weekly-off. Around 3 pm, a friend messaged, “100 for 5, but Kohli and Dinesh Karthik are at the crease.” India needed 94 runs, five wickets in hand and countless overs. Chance? Of course.

I sneaked into a nearby watering hole to soak in the English atmosphere on the big screen. As I sipped my drink, Kohli fell. India collapsed in no time. Such a predictable end, or rather, start, of an overseas tour for India. That’s been the trend in recent times.

Key moment: I knew Pant would shine. It was a matter of time. Last year, in the Indian Premier League, the 56-ball 97 against Gujarat Lions carried too many sub-plots — another wicketkeeper-batsman in the pool, another problem of plenty, too young and not fit enough. But that innings highlighted his attacking flair.

His maiden Test ton, 114, at The Oval is a bright spot in the time of injury-prone Wriddhiman Saha and inconsistent Dinesh Karthik.

Game-changing performance: Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri picked the right candidate for the ‘player of the tournament’ award. Sam Curran dominated India in sessions. The gritty 63 in Edgbaston helped England recover from 87 for 7 to 180, securing a healthy lead of 193. It will go down as one of the finest performances by a No. 8.

India perhaps will take note of the positives and implement them in Australia later this year. The timings, thankfully, will not allow me to enter any restaurant.

— Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya