For an India pace attack to be at the heart of beating England at Lords spoke volumes of their rise in Test cricket. India’s fearless investment in them has reaped massive reward, writes RYAN VREDE.
The last India team to win at Lords was in 2014. On that day, Ishant Sharma took seven second innings wickets, including those of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Ben Stokes and Joe Root, who shared a century stand with Moeen Ali that threatened to take the game away from India at one point.
That was a feat of individual brilliance. Monday’s fifth day effort at the home of cricket was testament to the potency of the collective.
Having set England 272 to win in 60 overs, India had all the momentum. However, they were facing a team of immense temperament, one who’d defined themselves by winning Tests despite improbable odds.
Yet it was over before it really began. Joe Root’s immense prowess was diminished by a top-order collapse that saw his team lose both openers with the score still on one, and five more wickets before they’d reach 100.
It would be lazy thinking and show a disregard for the nuances of Test cricket to simply credit Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, who took three and four wickets respectively, for the victory. The supporting cast in the seam attack needed high degrees of competency and unrelenting pressure for the duo to do their work.
Consider that Mohammed Shami and Sharma bowled 10 overs each for 13 runs to lock in a choke that England had no rebuttal for.
This, remember, was an attack without the world’s No.2-ranked Test bowler, Ravichandran Ashwin.
Not that they needed him, and it is debatable what sort of impact he would have made, given that the deck and conditions were a gift from the cricket gods who bowl seam up.
Yet, these favourable circumstances mean nothing without the skill to exploit them against an England line-up that, despite Stokes’ absence, were still loaded with talent and had enjoyed the support of a believing home crowd. But India’s pace men were just t00 good.
I read with interest today as the English media ripped their team to ribbons. Many attributed their defeat to their failure to dismiss the India tail on day four. This brought with it laments about Stokes and Jofra Archer’s absence. Others blamed the top-order’s relative inexperience for the capitulation. Some suggested England were shaken by the argy bargy that flared up as the Test reached its concluding chapters.
It reminded of the English media’s response to the British & Irish Lions’ series defeat to South Africa. There was little by way of objective reporting, almost no reputable rugby media credited the Springboks for having the tourists’ measure across three Test matches.
This was the case in the wake of the Lords result. Its sad, but it shouldn’t diminish the masterful exhibition of skill from the India seamers (notwithstanding the team’s solid batting effort).
There were no soft dismissals for England’s frontline batsmen. Each of them were undone by an opponent who was capable of expertly exploiting a weakness in their attack or defence. Shami bowled Dom Sibley a 140kph leg cutter. Bumrah delivered from wide of the crease, forcing Root to misjudge the line, catching the edge of a defensive prod. Siraj then did the same to Jos Butler.
This attack, in these conditions, was irrepressible. They are a far cry from the limp pace units that travelled the world in the era preceding this glorious one.
I watched an interview with skipper Virat Kohli during the Test were he declared that any passengers would be rooted out. He said that history didn’t define this team. In this context, there is an expectation that fast bowlers win Test matches. That expectation was not misplaced on day five.
Three of the four seamers who fronted England at Lords are in the top 20 of the Test rankings. Siraj is is 56th but won’t be for long on the evidence of his performances when given a chance.
A team without world-class seam bowlers can’t live with the game’s elite. India didn’t contest the World Test Championship Final by accident. They didn’t beat England at their most famous of home venues by chance. This is a formidable attack, one the Proteas will have to negotiate in a year-end series.
Much is made of India’s incredible batsmen, and rightly so. They are a joy to watch when playing well. Less praise is reserved for a dimension of their game that has shown the most drastic improvement of any dimension of any Test team in the last 10 years.
Salute to the India quicks. Love watching you work.