The beauty of Test cricket lies in its change of colours when two of the best teams of the format face each other. They don’t give up easily and continues to push their limits and make the contest a simmering one. India, despite being on the back foot, for most of the times at Oval, turned things around with the bat and ball to take a lead in the Test series.

Joe Root won the toss and invited Virat Kohli to bat on a deck that assisted the swing bowlers.

The result was, India were bowled out cheaply on the first day for the second Test in a row.

Chris Woakes – playing a first-class game for the first time since August 2020 after missing 11 Tests through isolation, rotation and injury – took four wickets and Ollie Robinson continued his fine summer with three, with England’s seamers relentless in reducing India to 127 for 7.

Most of India’s batters had made starts before being dismissed – Virat Kohli played fluently for 50 before falling to Robinson for the third consecutive Test – but Shardul Thakur’s 57 off 36 balls changed the complexion of their innings. He teed off from No. 8 after being recalled to the side and his half-century – the fastest recorded in a Test in England – gave India something to bowl at.

Thakur rode his luck throughout, dropped on 43 after gloving a pull to Bairstow and with several shots falling just short of fielders, but flat-batted Robinson back over his head for four then pulled his next ball for six to reach a 31-ball fifty.

Bumrah blew the game back open by removing both England openers in the space of five balls, finding extra bounce from just short of a length. Rory Burns looked to play late but inside-edged onto his own stumps, and Haseeb Hameed’s attempted back-cut only managed to divert a short ball into Pant’s gloves.

Root and Dawid Malan rebuilt with some fluency from 6 for 2, punishing any width on either side of the wicket in a stand of 46 in 11.3 overs, but Root’s dismissal late in the day – bowled by an inch-perfect nip-backer from Umesh, which beat his inside edge and kissed the top of his off stump –hinted at an Indian unit that was not ready to drop their shoulder soon.

On the second day, England were teetering at 53 for 3 overnight and lost two wickets for nine runs at the start of the day, but Ollie Pope’s fluency in partnerships with Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali dragged them into the lead, and then Woakes – batting at No. 9 after England had used a nightwatchman – built on it by attacking the old ball.

The Oval is one of the happy hunting grounds for Pope who averages more than a hundred in domestic cricket here. He changed his stance from middle and leg stump to middle and off that helped him to negotiate the probing line and incisive length of the Indian seamers. His steady knock helped England take a commanding lead of 99 runs in the first innings and it was up to the Indian batting lineup to keep this Test alive.

England struggled to create chances with the new ball as Rohit and Rahul stood firm, though one opportunity went begging: Anderson found Rohit’s outside edge but Burns failed to pick the ball up at second slip and watched it fly past him.

On the third day, Rohit Sharma became the epitome of patience and led the Indian fightback.

Rohit shared partnerships of 83 and 153 for the first and second wicket with KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara, pressing on through the third morning after seeing out 16 overs on the second evening. He batted within himself for most of the day in gloomy, overcast conditions but moved from 94 to his hundred by swinging Moeen Ali for six over long-on.

He was eventually dismissed in bizarre fashion, heaving a pull straight to long leg when Ollie Robinson dug the second new ball into the pitch, and when Robinson had Pujara caught in the slips via an inside edge into his back thigh five balls later, England were back in the game.

But Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja – retaining his spot at No. 5 – battled through before bad light brought an early end.

On Day 4, India resumed three wickets down with a lead of 171 on the fourth morning and pressed on towards a significant third-innings total thanks primarily to Thakur and Pant’s 100-run stand for the seventh wicket.

They lost wickets in clusters but England’s bowlers struggled to create regular chances on a flat Oval pitch and India’s total of 466 was their highest in the second innings of a Test since 2009.

England’s openers were tasked with seeing out 32 overs in the evening session and managed to do so with few concerns. Virat Kohli quickly turned to Ravindra Jadeja, who bowled 13 overs on the trot as he searched for the rough created by the seamers’ footholes, but he struggled for consistency in his length. Burns was gritty and defensive but Hameed found some fluency, clipping boundaries off his pads and driving forcefully through the covers to leave England eyeing an improbable win.

The deck was still ideal for batting and what England needed was to exhibit resolve.

In fact, they were going well until Jasprit Bumrah struck after lunch.

England started the day hopeful of pulling off an improbable fourth-innings run chase for the third summer in a row after wins against Australia and Pakistan in the last two years.

It was Thakur who made the first breakthrough as he managed to move the old ball away from Burns’ outside edge after angling it in from around the wicket. Rishabh Pant took a straightforward chance after a thin nick.

With Jadeja finding turn and bite from the rough outside Dawid Malan’s off stump, England were bogged down. Hameed struggled to score against the seamers – he added only 19 runs to his overnight 43 while batting through the morning session – and with the prospect of victory still at the back of their minds, the pressure to score paid. Hameed nudged Jadeja into the covers and called Malan through for a single, but Mayank Agarwal – on as a sub fielder for Rohit – threw quickly and cleanly to Pant in time to beat Malan’s dive.

After lunch, Bumrah started to move the ball late and at pace – His full length and late tail were enough to burst through Ollie Pope’s defence, angling in from wide on the crease and beating him on the inside edge. It was a fitting dismissal for his 100th in Tests, brought up in his 24th appearance to break Kapil Dev’s record for fastest to the landmark by an Indian fast bowler.

Root survived a tight lbw appeal on review in the following over, DRS confirming Jadeja had pitched the ball outside leg stump, but Bumrah was purring and struck moments later. He beat Jonny Bairstow with the first ball of his over, full and reversing away, before turning it around on its axis and zipping it through him with a fast, in-ducking yorker two balls later.

Jadeja struck with the first ball he bowled to Moeen Ali, turning one sharply out of the rough created by the right-arm seamers and inducing a hard-handed poke away from the body, which gave Suryakumar Yadav – the other sub fielder – a simple catch at short leg. The slide was four wickets for six runs, enough to turn the game on its head.

Still, Root was out there and England were still hoping to survive the day.

Kohli opted to delay the second new ball, bringing Thakur back to bowl the 81st with the reversing old one, and an innocuous, back-of-a-length ball proved deadly: Root looked to run it down to third man, but inside-edged onto his stumps and with that, the hope of an English survival died.

The tail was polished and India took the lead.

“It’s frustrating not to be able to get something from the game today, we turned up this morning and really felt we had an opportunity to win the Test,” Root said.

“The opening partnership was outstanding, but credit to India, they got the ball to reverse and made good use of that, it was a brilliant spell of bowling from Bumrah and that really was the turning point.”

“More from my side of things, we’d look at other areas in the Test where we may have missed opportunities, could have been a little bit better, could have made more of an advantage of that first-innings lead. And obviously in the field, as well, as difficult as some of those chances were, you’ve got to take them against world-class players.”

“Whenever you lose the game you can look at the toss. More than anything, you look at what lead we had and what we could have potentially had. That’s the thing, we’ve got to be a bit more ruthless there, we’ve got to make that a 200-run lead instead of a 100-run lead, especially the way the surface was playing. It’s about those big partnerships, we had a number of good starts, guys getting in and not managing to go on, that’s something we’ve got to be clinical at, not get complacent.”

“Absolutely unbelievable spell! If you give 27 runs off 22 overs on this kind of pitch, that’s a huge effort in the last innings of the Test match. As you said the pitch hadn’t offered enough, but as soon as the ball started reversing a bit, Jasprit just said: “Just give me the ball.” And he bowled that six-over spell and got us two breakthroughs which completely shifted the momentum to our side. From there on, we knew any more mistakes from England and we will be all over this game,” Kohli said about the spell of Bumrah after lunch.

Regarding the influence of Thakur and Rohit, Kohli said, “Rohit’s innings was outstanding – playing against a 100-run lead as an opener and the conditions were overcast, and his knock was the difference in the second innings. But the impact performance we were looking for from a lower middle-order point of view, what Shardul has done in this game has to be remembered for a long time. Even in the first innings, he stood up: his 50 was actually the difference between a 150-160 lead and a 100-run lead. And his 60 in the second innings as well, a counter-attacking one, I felt like it deflated the opposition. When I got out in the morning (on Day 4), they were looking at a few more breakthroughs and probably to try to restrict us to a reasonable total, but the way he batted again in the second innings was outstanding.”

“The best thing about both wins is the character that the side has shown. If you look at how the game panned: you mentioned the 100-run lead that England had in the first innings [England had a 99-run lead at The Oval] – to come back from there and the way we batted in the second innings showed that we are not down and out. And we are not looking to survive in this game. If there’s an opportunity to put the opposition under pressure, we’ll go for it. And we put up a total on the board which was always going to be difficult to chase, especially heading the latter half of Day 4 and 5.”


“As I said at Lord’s as well, I’m really proud of the character the team has shown, especially this morning the way the team has bowled. It is definitely among the top three bowling performances that I have witnessed as Indian captain.”

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