India wins by 157 runs and takes a commanding 2-1 series lead from England.
India took a 2-1 series lead over England thanks to Jasprit Bumrah’s devastating reverse-swing, Ravindra Jadeja’s miserly spell into the rough, and crucial breakthroughs from Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur, who took India to a 157-run victory that seemed improbable for much of the fourth Test at The Oval.
On the first afternoon, India were 127 for 7, had surrendered a 99-run first-innings advantage, and had to watch England’s openers put on an unbroken 100-run stand on a flat track that offered absolutely nothing to their bowlers on the final morning.
But, after strong individual efforts from Thakur and Rohit Sharma had pushed them back into the game after the early setbacks, their attack, inspired by Bumrah’s amazing old-ball spell, took six wickets in 22.4 thrilling overs to change the game decisively on the final afternoon.
On the last day, India’s aim was simple but difficult: take 10 wickets in 90 overs. They had decided to rest their greatest spinner, R Ashwin, and the pitch in the second innings had provided no help to England’s seamers.
After lunch, Bumrah’s high-class stint of 2 for 6 in six overs was key, as he spearheaded a collapse of four wickets for six runs, with Umesh taking the final two wickets after tea.
After victories over Australia and Pakistan in the previous two summers, England began the day hopeful of pulling off an unlikely fourth-innings run chase for the third summer in a row. On the fourth evening, Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed both batted well, putting up half-centuries and a 100-run opening partnership, although Burns fell soon after.
The first breakthrough was made by Thakur. He’d spoken to Sky Sports in the build-up to the final day, revealing India’s optimism about the prospect of getting the ball to reverse thanks to Jadeja scuffing up one side bowling into the rough, and now he’d angled the old ball away from Burns’ outside edge after angling it in from around the wicket. Following a tiny nick, Rishabh Pant took a risky gamble.
England were slowed down by Jadeja’s spin and bite outside Dawid Malan’s off stump.
Hameed struggled to score against the seamers, adding only 19 runs to his overnight 43 while batting through the morning session, and the pressure to score paid off with the potential of victory still on their thoughts. Hameed shoved Jadeja into the covers and called Malan through for a single, but Mayank Agarwal, who had replaced Rohit as a sub fielder, threw to Pant quickly and cleanly, beating Malan’s dive. After lunch, Joe Root came out swinging, reverse-sweeping the first ball of the afternoon session for four, as if to warn Jadeja that putting the ball outside the right-handers’ leg stump would not be enough.
England never recovered when Jadeja spun one past Hameed’s outside edge to peg his off stump back as he sought to steer a single to cover with an open face.
Bumrah saw an opportunity and proceeded to reverse the ball ferociously, moving it late at 88mph/142kph and aiming for the stumps. Ollie Pope’s defence was breached as he angled in from wide on the crease and beat him on the inside edge with his full length and late tail. It was a suitable dismissal for his 100th Test wicket, which he achieved in his 24th appearance, breaking Kapil Dev’s record for being the fastest Indian fast bowler to reach the milestone.
In the following over, Root escaped a close lbw appeal on review, with DRS finding Jadeja had pitched the ball outside leg stump, but Bumrah was purring and struck seconds later. With the first ball of his over, he beat Jonny Bairstow, full and reversing away, before twisting it around on its axis and zipping it through him with a fast, in-ducking yorker two balls later. India was jubilant, with Kohli rousing the audience in applause, and England’s aspirations were shattered.
Kohli’s explanation for Ashwin’s ongoing absence at the toss was that Jadeja would provide him with a solid match-up against England’s left-handed bowlers, which raised some eyebrows given Ashwin’s track record against them.
But Jadeja’s performance validated his selection: he struck with the first ball he bowled to Moeen Ali, turning one sharply out of the rough generated by the right-arm seamers and coaxing a hard-handed pluck away from the body, which Suryakumar Yadav, the other sub fielder, caught at short leg. The four wickets for six runs were enough to turn the game around. Before tea, India had time to grab two more wickets, including Root’s important scalp.
Kohli chose to bowl the 81st over with the reversing old ball instead of the second new ball, and an ordinary back-of-a-length delivery proved deadly: Root tried to run it down to third man, but inside-edged onto his stumps.
Craig Overton was dropped at third slip by Ajinkya Rahane and then successfully overturned a lbw judgement against him as Bumrah thudded one into his pad. However, Woakes, who had looked strong for his 18, gave KL Rahul a low chance at short midwicket, giving Umesh Yadav his maiden wicket, and England were eight down at halftime.
Last man out, James Anderson, fended a catch behind to give Umesh a third, which was given out on the field and affirmed on review.
Kohli and India celebrated a superb victory that had appeared improbable for big swaths of the match, despite the absence of their head coach, Ravi Shastri, and two injured senior players, Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara, who were off the field for the whole final innings. England, on the other hand, is facing the threat of losing successive series at home unless they can win this one in Manchester, setting up an away Ashes series this winter.