In my reading, the spirit of cricket was spiked and shattered at its iconic home-ground of Lords yesterday. Not only yesterday –the fifth day. IThe “spiking” occurred throughout the match with (A) tailenders’ bombarded with headhigh short-pitched bowling by both sides; (B) verbal badinage and assualts — camouflaged as “badinage” and presented with smiles — from both parties; and (C) the spiking of the ball by Jimmy Anderson [according to one report] among the events on the ground.
Kumar Oh Kumar …. what future for “The Spirit of Cricket” talk you delivered during the famous COWDREY LECTURE some years back!
India 364 (Rahul 129, Rohit 83, Anderson 5-62) & 298 for 8 dec. (Rahane 61, Shami 56*, Wood 3-51) beat England 391 (Root 180*, Bairstow 57, Siraj 4-94) & 120 (Root 33, Siraj 4-32, Bumrah 3-33) by 151 runs
Another overseas Test, another flourish from India’s lower order. Jasprit Bumrah‘s day began as a batter in a hostile environment; by the end of the day, he and Mohammed Shami had turned the pressure around on England so swiftly and clinically that the hosts, who were in control of the game coming into the last day, folded in the final hour as India went 1-0 up in the series.
India were 154 ahead when the day began, with Rishabh Pant and the bowlers left to contend with the second new ball. For the first half an hour, everything went according to plan for England. Their relentless, disciplined attack at India on Sunday evening had set them up to go all guns blazing.
Pant has foiled a plan or two this year, including on England’s tour of India in February, and he was priority number one. They got him early, when he nicked behind on the forward defensive. India were 167 ahead then, with three wickets in hand.
It was a big gamble they had taken on the first day to play four fast bowlers, bringing a pure bowler in Ishant Sharma to replace the injured Shardul Thakur while they had allrounders R Ashwin and Axar Patel on the bench. Given that reality, England couldn’t have imagined what came next – a dogged resistance that took victory out of the picture, and ended on India’s terms 104 runs later, ten minutes after lunch, when they declared after Shami and Bumrah had added 89 runs for the ninth wicket. England never recovered.
In the post-mortem, they’ll identify their bowling to India’s tail – particularly Bumrah – as the phase where everything went awry. Mark Wood, who had gone off with a shoulder injury on Sunday, didn’t start the day on the field; he did, however, come back in, although not at full fitness, for a burst of short-pitched bowling. That seemed to be the plan from the other end as well, as England attacked India’s lower order with intimidating bowling, ostensibly for the treatment they had dished out to James Anderson at the end of England’s first innings.
The execution was good enough, but Bumrah and Shami weathered a storm that turned out in the end to be a major distraction for England from the job at hand. Bumrah, usually a genteel figure on the field, argued and battled on, wearing a few blows on the body. One of them hit him on the helmet and pinged in third man’s direction, only for him to hold his hand up and deny a single, with two balls remaining in Wood’s over. The clear message was that he was ready to take what he had previously dished out.
It was a message England didn’t heed as bouncer after bouncer was delivered at the pair, to the point of the bowlers tiring out of sheer frustration, and eventually being unable to breach the defenses of Bumrah and Shami. When England attacked the stumps, they both picked off boundaries, and soon enough Shami was past fifty, bringing out his favoured heaves over midwicket against Moeen Ali.
India finished that opening session, having gone at more than four an over, and the possibility of a win was now distant for England.
Why were India’s quicks more effective than England’s on day five?
Bumrah and Shami remained the protagonists in India’s script, nabbing Rory Burns and Dom Sibley for ducks in the first two overs to seize complete control of the match. Haseeb Hameed and Joe Root had to face four bowlers in 15 overs before Ishant – India’s hero the last time they won at Lord’s – was introduced. Ishant struck immediately, catching Hameed deep in the crease with an inducker. Jonny Bairstow didn’t look nearly as assured as he had in the first innings during his brief stay, and Ishant trapped him in front as well – with an assist from DRS – to pin England down to 67 for 4 at tea.
And so, once again, England’s fortunes seemed directly dependent on how deep Joe Root would go in the game. Coming back after tea, the England captain knew he had to bat through a majority of the remaining 38 overs. But once again, Bumrah was around to foil his plans.
Root only lasted until the third ball after tea, stabbing one to Virat Kohli at first slip, leaving England’s flamboyant line-up of batters – Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran – with a steep task.
A majority of the work India put in to remove the trio might have ended in the 27th over, but Kohli dropped Buttler off Bumrah, creating another plot in the thread that would threaten India until the final hour.
Mohammed Siraj, however, showed up, prickly and persistent as ever, to account for all three of them. Buttler and Ali hung around for close to 16 overs before Siraj had got the latter edging behind on the angle; next ball, he inflicted a king pair on Curran.
With just the bowlers to come in, India’s chirp turned into raucous chatter. Ollie Robinson had to take most of it – staring, encircling, unrelenting pressure between balls from the moment he came in. During his brief stay alongside Buttler, it seemed to stir him on. He got more and more resolute, in congruence with Buttler, and soon enough the sun had come out over Lord’s. Their vigil took England into the final ten overs of the 60 they had been asked to bat. And then they ran into Bumrah again.
Bumrah went around the wicket to Robinson, and sent two bouncers past his left shoulder, before slipping in an offcutter to flummox England’s No. 9. It pitched just in line with the stumps, caught Robinson on the back leg in front of the wicket, and returned three reds when India reviewed it.
The clock had begun ticking as soon as it happened. Siraj replaced Ishant, and Buttler’s nerves showed immediately as he fenced one in the channel to Pant. Anderson received a similar welcome to Robinson, but he would not be worried with any short-pitched bowling; Siraj went full, and knocked his off stump in the same over to seal the win for India.
Purposeful, tactical bowling – which England had done for the most part as they came from behind in this Test – finished them off.
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.