Ollie Pope hit a match-winning century (196, 278b, 21x4) and Tom Hartley (26.2-5-62-7) picked up his maiden five-wicket haul on his Test debut as England scripted a dramatic turnaround to beat India by 28 runs in the first Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Ben Stokes-led England stunned India in its own backyard, with Pope leading the way on the fourth morning as India was set a stiff target of 231 runs to chase. In reply, the Rohit Sharma-led side capitulated to be bowled out for 202 in 64.3 overs.
Ravichandran Ashwin and KS Bharat forged a 57-run stand in 130 deliveries for the eighth wicket— the highest partnership in the second innings — and injected hope of pulling off a win. However, the duo’s departure shut the door on India as England drew first blood and took a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah with a 25-run partnership could only delay the inevitable, as Hartley wrapped up India’s innings by picking a rich haul of seven wickets.
Pope stars in England’s dream win
England dared to dream with Pope dropping anchor and putting the Indian bowlers under pressure with some smart batting. The England vice-captain with his resolute batsmanship that involved some audacious scoops, reverse sweeps, and sweeps, disrupted the travel plans of commentators and journalists covering the game as no one imagined it would head into the fifth day.
After the initial two days, an Indian victory was on the cards, including a predicted Day three finish. But Pope changed the complexion of the game, switched the dynamics to England’s side, and pulled the rug from under India’s feet.
England, 190 runs behind, began its second innings with Pope as the guiding light to finish Day three with a lead of 126 runs. As the night passed and India dreamed of mopping up the tail and knocking off the runs early, England plotted a reversal that no one imagined.
On Sunday morning, Pope crossed his 150, forged partnerships with Rehan Ahmed and Tom Hartley, swept his team out of trouble, was in action under the grill at short leg and silly point, took two vital catches, and most importantly, backed his instincts. Pope could hardly do anything wrong.
He missed a double century but it was a knock for the ages as England turned a Test match on its head with one seamer, one specialist spinner, two rookie spinners, and a part-timer in Root, who were suddenly unplayable on the penultimate day.
The great Indian fall
Hartley tore through the Indian top-order as the spinner picked early wickets to apply brakes on the Indian batting.
India was off to a sedate start, before Hartley dismissed Jaiswal, with Pope taking a sharp catch at the forward short leg. A delivery later, Shubman Gill was the next to follow as the batsman pushed with hard hands and the ball pinged off the face of the bat, and it was Pope once again, this time at silly point, taking an excellent low catch.
Rohit Sharma watched haplessly from the other end as KL Rahul joined the skipper for the rebuilding job. England was relentless, and such was the pressure that Rohit had to play some awkward reverse sweeps — two of which went to the boundary — to unsettle Jack Leach, who was bowling a wonderful line despite a troubled knee.
After conceding 63 runs in nine overs in the first innings, Hartley reversed his bowling fortunes trapping Rohit in front as well, to send shivers through the Indian dugout. Rohit played for the spin, which wasn’t there, and was trapped plumb as India lost a review to be three down.
India had to think differently to arrest the slide and, in the process, promoted Axar Patel at No. 5, bringing the right-left combination into play. Axar and Rahul laid the bricks for a partnership and entered the Tea break unseparated.
The resumption saw the England camp gushing in celebrations as Hartley struck in the fourth ball after Tea with a simple caught and bowled to pack off Axar, and a couple of overs later, Root trapped Rahul with a delivery that spun back into the batsman as Rahul missed his backfoot defence.
With half the side back in the hut and still 122 runs to get, it all boiled down to Ravindra Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer.
With Hartley finding his length and picking wickets, the Barmy Army was right behind their team and even went on to play ‘Rally Round the West Indies’ in the stands for inspiration as the handful of England supporters clapped and cheered Stokes and his troops.
The Brain-fade moment
Then arrived the brain-fade moment. Jadeja drove a Root full toss to mid-on, and called for a quick single but Stokes charged in, collected the ball and reverse flicked it onto the stumps as the direct hit ended Jadeja’s stay and blew away India’s hopes.
The home side lost three quick wickets for just 24 runs as England tightened its grip on the match. Iyer then pushed a Leach delivery with an open face of the bat to offer a simple catch to Root at slip.
It was almost all over for India but Ashwin and Bharat bided time in the middle and gave hope of chasing down the total. The duo ran hard between the wickets, played to the merit of the deliveries and most importantly had a clear thought process in their approach.
As dusk approached, the duo grew in confidence, only to be pegged back by Hartley, who castled Bharat and broke the stand to spark celebrations in the England camp.
Pope hits 150, misses double ton
England started the day on 316/6 with a lead of 126 runs as Pope brought up his 150 in the second over of the day by guiding Bumrah past the point region.
Bumrah did justify the reason behind the delay in taking the new ball as he removed Rehan with an outswinger in his third over of the morning as the ball nestled into the gloves of Srikar Bharat.
It was in the 89th over when India finally took the new ball, but Pope and Hartley continued to tick the scorecard and forged a valuable 50-run stand in 65 balls for the eighth wicket. In the first hour of play, England scored 72 runs as the Indian bowlers neither looked threatening nor were able to stop the flow of runs.
India’s problems only compounded further when Rahul dropped a sitter at first slip with Pope batting on 186 off Siraj as England crossed the 400-run mark for the first time in 11 years, with the lead breaching the 200-run mark.
A change of ends did the trick for Ashwin, as the off-spinner broke the 80-run eighth wicket stand by castling Hartley with a delivery that stayed low.
Hartley’s fall saw India wrap up the innings as Jadeja induced an outside edge to dismiss Wood, and Bumrah picked up his fourth wicket to deny Pope a double century as the England vice-captain, probably for the first time, couldn’t connect a reverse scoop as the ball hit the top of off-stump.
Brendon McCullum was the last batsman to hit a double century in the second innings while visiting India, and the coach helped Pope notch one of the best Test innings that paved the way for England to script one of the greatest Test wins on Indian soil. Bazball has hit the Indian grounds in grand style.
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