The final day of the series proved to be the most entertaining day as Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul, armed with the license to play freely, took the attack to the English bowlers on a flat fifth day wicket and threatened to gun down the massive target. While India eventually fell well short, the players’ report card took a few twists and turns on day five of the fifth Test. Let's glance at the final report card from the series.
Veteran England opener Alastair Cook made a memorable swansong to his remarkable career, slamming a gritty 147 to bid adieu to the game. The southpaw had started his international career with a hundred against India in 2006 and fittingly ended it with another against the same opposition. His partnership with Joe Root proved to be the foundation of England's mammoth second innings effort, and ultimately the difference between the two sides in this Test.
Rahul stood tall amidst India’s ruins in the second innings, stitching together a double century stand with Rishabh Pant and raising hopes of salvaging a draw. A terrific hundred from the opener went in vain as he was deceived by Adil Rashid late on day five. A positive mindset and the willingness to stick to his natural game worked for Rahul here.
Rishabh Pant's average glovework has seen him concede more than 50 runs in byes alone in this series. But all that was forgotten as he crash-landed England's party with a mesmerising hundred, the third highest by a 'keeper in the fourth innings of a Test. In a stunning fightback, Pant and Rahul took the game to the hosts, evoking hopes of an unlikely win at one stage. Pant, however, fell soon after Rahul’s dismissal.
England skipper’s conversion-rate issue has been talk of the town for a while now but it came to a grinding halt at The Oval with Root stitching together his 14th Test hundred to bring an end to his dry run of form in the series. He had made 114 runs in seven innings since his 80 in the first Test, but this hundred and his double-century stand with Cook strengthened England’s position in the Test.
Sidelined for four Tests on the tour, Jadeja proved why it was a disastrous choice, contributing with ball, bat and in the field. The industrious left-arm spinner used the rough created by the seamers to good effect and returned with four wickets in the first innings and three more in the second. However, the force behind his nine-point rating is jis half-century — a superlative 86 that reduced India’s deficit in the first innings.
Anderson went past Glenn McGrath's tally of 563 Test wickets in a remarkable performance where he tied down India’s batsmen with his control. With overhead clouds to egg him on, Anderson relied on immaculate channels to force errors and found success. He dismissed Pujara and Rahane in the first innings and pushed India down the abyss late on day four with two quick top-order wickets. He was bizarrely used very less during the Pant-Rahul stand until late on day five when he bowled 13.2 overs on the trot with nine maidens to put pressure on the batsmen.
With England’s top-order once again collapsing in the first innings, Jos Buttler was left to carry England to respectability. From 198/7, he battled with the tail to take the hosts to a competitive 332, smashing a positive 89. He fell to Ravindra Jadeja in the second innings for a duck while trying to push the run rate for a quick declaration. That, however, does not affect Buttler's stupendous show in the match.
Controversially picked ahead of Karun Nair, Hanuma Vihari had a lot to prove and seemed pretty nervous about it at the onset. Once the nerves settled down, he came through as a gritty batsman with class. A half-century in the first innings was followed by three wickets, including that of Cook and Root. Despite his duck in the second outing, his place should be secure for the West Indian series coming up.
The England all-rounder is the newly-anointed No 3 in England's Test line-up and justified the tag with a hard fought half-century in the first innings that went to 'Boycott levels’, according to his teammates. Ali wasn't as effective with the ball and failed to contribute much with the bat in the second innings, although England would be inclined to bat him at No 3 on the Sri Lanka tour.
A run-a-ball 37 in the second innings fails to mask Stokes average series with the bat but he continued to impress with the ball, dismissing Virat Kohli in the first innings. Stokes’ ability to impact the match one way or the other should see him being first-choice all-rounder ahead of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran in Sri Lanka.
Bumrah has been India's best seamer in England this time and the youngster was right on the money again in the fifth Test. He dismissed Cook and Root in the same over in the first innings but went wicketless in the second essay. Bumrah will be a key component in India's Test attack in Australia later this year.
Ishant Sharma continued his good form on the tour with a three-wicket haul in the first innings, playing his part in reducing England to 198/7 on day one. He went wicketless in the second, but importantly kept his end really tight conceding at a rate of less than 2 before injuring his ankle that kept him out of action. A return to Australia, where he had famously troubled Ricky Ponting, should see Ishant hit his peak.
Kohli seemed to have overcome his fourth stump woes with conviction on this tour but it made a late appearance at The Oval as he edged balls behind in both the innings. A lapse in concentration led to an edge off a wide ball from Stokes in the first innings and Broad removed him for a golden duck in the second innings.
Broad sent India’s hopes spiralling down on day four by getting rid of Virat Kohli for a golden duck. The lanky seamer wasn't among wickets in the first innings, grabbing just the one of Shikhar Dhawan, but appeared in control. It showed in the second innings when he bowled a sharp spell late on day four, which included the key wicket of Kohli.
Like with the limited-overs games against India, one ball from Adil Rashid continued to turn heads and this time the batsman at the receiving end was KL Rahul. He and Pant were in the middle of a game-changing partnership when Adil Rashid, who was conceding six runs an over until then, landed one on the rough and cleaned up Rahul in Warne-esque fashion. He sent back Pant as well to finish with 2/63, very average figures on paper but a telling one in the context of the game.
With the illustrious names in the line-up doing the bulk of the work in bowling, Sam Curran, England's saviour in the series on more than one occasion, had little to do in this Test. He was undone by Ishant for a duck in the first innings and bowled just 11 overs, dismissing Rahul in the process. With minimal opportunities, Curran did not create much of an impact.
His reputation enhanced after a solid hundred at Southampton, Cheteshwar Pujara once again fought hard, spending time at the crease but could not get going after a start. He edged Anderson behind while on 37 in the first essay and fell to the same bowler for a duck late on day four in the second innings.
The Indian middle-order batsman encapsulated his wretched form in the series when he toe-ended a slog sweep off Moeen Ali to mid-wicket just when he and Rahul were batting pretty comfortably on day five. This followed a duck in the first innings, putting him in danger of missing out if India revert to a five-bowler formula.
The last nail on the coffin for Jennings has perhaps come. The southpaw, deemed as a possible replacement for Cook before the series, was worryingly out of touch and after another failed attempt at the top, is in danger of being dropped for the Sri Lanka tour.
Shami’s lackadaisical spells made a return at The Oval and the seamer was off-colour for a major part of the Test match. He picked up rhythm in the second innings, but still gave away runs at a frenetic pace, which puts additional pressure on him when Bhuvneshwar returns fully fit.
Bairstow had another forgettable Test match. The wicket-keeper batsman resumed keeping, which he had stated that he enjoys, but runs still eluded him as he found ways to get out. He got out for a duck in the first outing and scored 18 in the second.
Dhawan’s horrendous series plummeted further as he fell for 3 and 1 at The Oval. With 162 runs in eight innings’ at 20.25, Dhawan is in danger of being dumped before the West Indies series with Prithvi Shaw waiting in the wings. The flashy left-hander's repeated failures outside the sub-continent have still not deterred the management and selectors from picking him but this dismal tour ought to put an end to that.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor
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