DateLine: 11th September 2018
By Andy Jalil at the Oval
England win final Test despite defiant batting by India
The Test and series victory were a fitting finale for Cook after a 161-Test career as well as for Anderson who with 564 Test wickets became the leading wicket-taker for a fast bowler. It was an emotional moment for him to have reached that milestone with the final wicket that fell in the series which brought the end of the career of his team-mate and close friend Cook over the years. Trailing by a further 405 at the start of the fifth day’s play, India held on for 18 overs before losing the first of the five remaining wickets. While winning was not realistically considered a feasibility, it was a question of whether or not they could bat out the final day to save the Test.
Certainly, during those overs KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane, with 46 and 10 respectively, showed determination in taking the total to 120 and more importantly, from India’s point of view, took up an hour and 20 minutes of the time. The 118-run partnership was eventually broken with spinner Moeen Ali having Rahane held at mid-wicket for 37. Rahane got a top edge to a flighted ball for Keaton Jennings to hold a low catch.
As often happens after a long partnership, the next wicket falls quickly and a run later India were 121 for five. Following his half century in the first innings, Hanuma Vihari only lasted six balls. He couldn’t get his bat out of the way to a slightly rising ball from Ben Stokes and was held behind off the shoulder of the bat, without scoring. But it hasn’t been a bad Test debut for him with a half century in the first innings and claiming three wickets for 37.
With half the side dismissed and still 284 runs required with well over two sessions of play remaining, any thoughts that one had of the lower half of the batting order not lasting would have been highly premature. For Rahul and Rishabh Pant showed great resolve and took control with determined batting. Just as Cook and Joe Root had dominated the play on the previous day in a 259-run stand, Rahul and Pant were equally in control during their double century partnership.
While Rahul is an established Test player, 20-year old Pant has only played two Tests previous to this match. He fully lived up to his reputation of a hard-hitting batsman and hit as many as 84 of his 114 runs from boundaries which included four sixes off the two spinners, Rashid and Moeen. He got to 93 with a six and coincidently so had his partner Rahul earlier, to reach 93. In fact, Pant had brought up his maiden Test hundred in style with a six on one knee sweeping Rashid into the stands.
Rahul, having struggled for big scores in this series, finally hit form. He gave stability to the innings when it was falling apart with three wickets down for two on the fourth day. He then gave hope to his side for saving the match, when he, along with Pant took India into the final session with five wickets still standing from half-way through the first session of play. His stroke-play was entertaining throughout his innings, especially so when he was approaching three figures.
He got to 93 with an extraordinary shot, a six over extra cover off Ben Stokes. Two balls later he pulled a four to get to 97 and then another boundary, three balls later for his 5th Test century. It came from 118 balls including 16 fours and a six. The defiant sixth wicket stand finally ended with Rahul on 149 when a huge leg spin from Rashid pitched in the rough of the bowlers’ footmarks and went across the batsman to hit the top of off stump. It reminded many of Shane Warne’s ball – in his first Ashes series – that bowled Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1994. It was called the ball of the century.
Rashid, in his next over had Pant held from a lofted hit at long-off, he failed to pick the googly and mistimed the shot. India lost five wickets in a space of 20 runs from Rahul’s dismissal. Rashid had claimed the wickets of both centurions and Sam Curran was brought on to dismiss Ishant Sharma and Ravi Jadeja, both caught behind before Anderson took his monumental wicket uprooting Mohammad Shami’s middle stump.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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