x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Kohli tribute to flood victims and Buttler should never be dropped again: takeaways from third England-India Test

India's batting perks up and England show fight even in defeat to set up potentially thrilling fourth and fifth matches

Virat Kohli and his Indian team finally got a win in the Test series in what has been an up-and-down tour of England. AFP
Virat Kohli and his Indian team finally got a win in the Test series in what has been an up-and-down tour of England. AFP

A graphic representation of India’s ongoing tour of England will illustrate how up and down the fortunes of both sides have been since the first week of July.

India opened the three-match Twenty20 series against the hosts with a win, lost the next game, and clinched the decider. Then they won the first of the three one-day internationals at a canter before England thrashed them in the next two matches.

Joe Root’s men were considered marginal underdogs before the Tests got under way. But they won at Edgbaston by 31 runs, with the game seesawing every day making it difficult to predict a winner.

But judging by the way India were hammered at Lord’s, it seemed like their performance graph would keep sliding in the next three Tests. Instead, there was another spike as India turned their fortunes around and beat a buoyed England side by 203 runs at Trent Bridge.

This leaves us wondering how either team will fare in the fourth Test at Southampton, due to start on August 30. Which is great for the game, because the series has made for fantastic viewing.

But here is what they can both take with them to the Rose Bowl.

Ajinkya Rahane returned to form with the bat, scoring crucial runs for India at Trent Bridge. Reuters
Ajinkya Rahane returned to form with the bat, scoring crucial runs for India at Trent Bridge. Reuters

Kohli gets support from rest of the cast

In batting terms, Virat Kohli continues to be head and shoulders above not just his own teammates but also the rest of the opposition.

The India captain leads the series chart with 440 runs – 234 ahead of the next most successful batsman, England’s Jonny Bairstow. Hardik Pandya is the next most successful Indian with 160 runs.

Encouragingly, the rest of India’s batsmen raised their game at Trent Bridge, with vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane scoring 81 in the first innings. Cheteshwar Pujara fought hard for his 72 in the second innings, shortly before Pandya hit a run-a-ball 52.

It also seemed like openers Shikhar Dhawan (35 and 44) and Lokesh Rahul (23 and 36) were applying themselves, and getting the starts before annoyingly failing to kick on. But at least they should go to Southampton in a better frame of mind.

Ben Stokes, left, and Jos Buttler put on a 169-run stand for the fifth wicket on Tuesday. Reuters
Ben Stokes, left, and Jos Buttler put on a 169-run stand for the fifth wicket on Tuesday. Reuters

Fightback bodes well for England

England’s first-innings capitulation at Trent Bridge was shocking. Not because they do not have issues with the batting – their openers, as well as Root himself, have yet to click – but they have increasingly been used to recoveries thanks to a strong middle-order.

The way Bairstow and Chris Woakes fought back at Lord’s is a case in point.

Normal services did resume in their second innings, though, when Jos Buttler (106) and Ben Stokes (62) stitched together a 169-run partnership after England had been reduced to 62-4 while chasing 521 for victory. Before Buttler was dismissed, it seemed like England could genuinely dream of winning the match, even though that would have meant doing the unprecedented.

India’s bowlers will know they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas given the depth of their opponents’ line-up.

India's Hardik Pandya can be a star all-rounder, but he needs a bit more consistency. Reuters
India's Hardik Pandya can be a star all-rounder, but he needs a bit more consistency. Reuters

Pandya shows what he is capable of, but …

When Pandya took the first five-wicket haul of his Test career to trigger an England collapse at Trent Bridge, there were those slamming Michael Holding for saying that the all-rounder was not a Test quality bowler.

Pandya's 5-28 was seen by some of his fans as a fitting response to unwarranted criticism from the former West Indies fast bowler.

Now, there is no doubting his talent, and, at 24, he has a bright future. But Pandya will know he has to keep improving and performing like he did in the third Test to warrant a permanent place in the side, before Kohli and the selectors lose patience with him.

England's Jos Buttler is too good a batsman to not be a regular fixture in the Test side. AFP
England's Jos Buttler is too good a batsman to not be a regular fixture in the Test side. AFP

Buttler is back

A key player in England’s limited-overs teams, Buttler's recent international form – coupled with a stellar season in the Indian Premier League – encouraged the selectors to give him another go in the long format.

He started poorly at Edgbaston but showed glimpses of form at Lord’s. And the maturity with which he went about scoring his first Test century on Tuesday proves he has a foundation on which to build a successful Test career.

It is a jarring fact that Adil Rashid, picked in the England side as a leg-spinner, has more first-class hundreds (10) than does Buttler (5).

But there is still hope he will become a mainstay in the hosts’ line-up for many years to come.

Kerala has been battered by torrential rain since August 8, with floods and landslides killing at least 250 people. About 800,000 people now live in relief camps. AP Photo
Kerala has been battered by torrential rain since August 8, with floods and landslides killing at least 250 people. About 800,000 people now live in relief camps. AP Photo

Timely lift for Kerala, and India as a whole

Moments after India won at Trent Bridge, Kohli paid tribute to the people of the southern state of Kerala, whose lives have been severely affected by recent floods.

“We as a team want to dedicate this win to the flood victims in Kerala,” he said. “This is our bit we can do as the Indian cricket team. A tough time there.”

Indeed, this has been a difficult week for the country as a whole, following the deaths of more than 200 people due to the floods. Key figures in India’s history also died last week, including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former lower house speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former cricket captain Ajit Wadekar, who led India to their first ever Test series win in England, in 1971.

This win will, hopefully, have brought some cheer to the nation.