India turns the tide, keeps series alive

India's seventh Test win in England was special not only because of the manner of it but also because of the circumstances under which it came. A 0-2 score-line after two Tests can be deflating.

Play on Wednesday lasted just 17 balls after England resumed the fifth day on 311 for nine.   -  Getty Images

Overseas wins are always special but this has to count among India's more memorable ones. Under great pressure, Virat Kohli's men have administered a proper drubbing, thoroughly outplaying England on its own soil.

That has not been said very often of an Indian team. The formalities took 10 minutes on the fifth morning at Trent Bridge, when James Anderson hacked at a short, wide leg-break from R. Ashwin and gloved the ball high. Ajinkya Rahane went backpedaling from first slip and held a simple catch. India had won by 203 runs.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

"A complete Test match," Kohli called it afterwards. It was just that. India batted, bowled and caught (just ask James Anderson) better than England, and suddenly it is the home side that looks like the one with all the problems.

India's openers – all three of them – had looked out of sorts in the first two Tests but Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul produced a fifty partnership in both innings here. Dhawan, preferred over Murali Vijay, may just have saved his Test career with this performance.

Cheteshwar Pujara's 72 in the second innings will have come as a relief to India. He did not have a great time in South Africa and was dropped for the first Test at Edgbaston: not very reassuring for a man who only plays one format of the sport.

READ: We can win the series, says Kohli

At Lord's, he was run out in the first-innings and then on the opening morning at Trent Bridge, Pujara contrived to lose his wicket with a hook shot. He and India will now breathe easy.

Rahane's 81 on Saturday came at a similarly significant juncture – in the match, the series and perhaps his career. "Very crucial how Rahane played, having lost Pujara just before lunch," Kohli said at the presentation ceremony on Wednesday.

India is confident that R. Ashwin will recover in time for the fourth Test. The off-spinner was suffering from a tight hip at Trent Bridge and briefly went off the field on the second day. He did bowl 22.5 overs in the second innings, even if he did not look at his best.

"I think Ashwin will be OK. The fact that he bowled 20-25 overs clearly suggests it's not that bad," Ravi Shastri said here on Wednesday.

"This break will be ideal for him. If there was a Test match starting in three days' time then it would have been a problem."

"He's very positive, we love that about him. He can change the whole complexion of the game, and that's what he did. They're a quality bowling attack and you need grit to score against them, and that's what Jinx (Rahane) in the first innings and Puji (Pujara) in the second showed."

India's batting at Lord's had been characterized by a singular lack of fight, of a determination to survive. But those qualities were on display here, as they left the ball well when it was swinging and made runs when they had the chance.

 

And then there's Virat Kohli, by a distance the outstanding batsman this series. He scored 200 runs in the third Test and is playing at a level not matched by anyone on both sides. Joe Root will wonder how the match may have turned out if he had not elected to field first at the toss.

Everything that could have gone right for India at Trent Bridge did. Hardik Pandya, who had hitherto done little to justify his selection as an all-rounder in the Test side, may now luxuriate in his success. He and the team's other three fast bowlers were all quicker than England's four. Kohli said it was "the most pleasing thing" for him to see. Jasprit Bumrah, returning from injury, gave the attack a new dimension with his pace and his angles.



India's seventh Test win in England was special not only because of the manner of it but also because of the circumstances under which it came. A 0-2 score-line after two Tests can be deflating.

Only one team has ever won a five-match series from that position primarily because it is so hard to regain lost confidence. India's players will head into Southampton knowing they have won a major battle: the one inside their own minds.