India finally opened their account in the five-match Test series after losing the first two matches, beating England convincingly at Trent Bridge by a margin of 203 runs, with the series scoreline reading 2-1 in the home team's favour.
After a performance at Lord's that made critics question their status as the No 1 Test team, the visitors bounced back in style. Not only did the pacers take 19 wickets at Trent Bridge, but the batsmen stepped up as well when it mattered. Skipper Virat Kohli was once again among the runs, scoring 97 and 103 in what was yet another class act from the batting star. Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara scored vital half-centuries, not only to support their captain but to also regain their confidence, which took a bit of a hit in the previous games. And then there were Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah — the latter returning to the playing XI at Nottingham after missing out on the first two matches. Both played key roles with the ball to collect five-wicket hauls in the first and second innings respectively.
Let us now take a look at some of the turning points of the third Test:
Virat Kohli-Ajinkya Rahane partnership
With Shikhar Dhawan returning to the fold at the top of the batting order, pairing with KL Rahul on this occasion, India got off to a much better start. However, a quality Chris Woakes spell brought the hosts back in the game, as the Indians went from 60/0 to 82/3. Not a situation as gloomy as it was at Lord's, but the risk of undoing the good work of Dhawan and Rahul was there.
Kohli and Rahane laid to rest the criticism of lack of big partnerships from the top and middle order, as the two applied themselves at the crease much better on the opening day to forge at 159-run stand. The post-lunch session on the opening day was all about the Indian captain and vice-captain showing once again how good they are as a batting pair, especially overseas, as they put the hosts in the driver's seat with near-flawless knocks.
Hardik Pandya's spell
Pandya had been copping a fair bit of criticism going into the Trent Bridge Test. Questions were asked about his place in the Test team, as well as his role. Pandya had been a tad under-utilised as a bowler in the first two games, and his batting performances wasn't one to brag about. That was until his deadly spell on Day 2, as he collected five wickets in a space of 28 deliveries to notch up his maiden five-for in Tests.
While the rest of the bowlers had done well to build pressure on the hosts, reducing them to 75/3, Pandya's hostile spell helped trigger a collapse that would turn the game on its head, and allow the visitors to dictate terms. Pandya's five-for left England gasping for air at 128/9, staring at the prospect of a follow-on, before a Buttler cameo helped restore some pride in what was a shambolic batting performance by the hosts.
Kohli's century on Day 3
While Kohli was dismissed an agonising three runs short of a ton in the first innings, he made up for it with an equally outstanding knock in the second essay, this time bringing up his 23rd Test century. However, what was more important from the team's point of view at this stage was getting partnerships along, and that's precisely what the Indian captain was able to forge, both with Cheteshwar Pujara, and later Rahane.
During his 197-ball 103 — one of his slower knocks — there nearly came a moment when he got dismissed by arch-nemesis James Anderson. Batting on 93, he edged one to Keaton Jennings at gully, with the ball bursting through the fielder's palms and running away for a boundary. Anderson wore an agonised expression on his face, with Kohli surviving another outside edge off the next delivery, before eventually making his way to the century.
When finally trapped leg-before by Woakes, India were comfortably perched at 281/4 with a lead of 449. Pandya's run-a-ball 52 not-out helped India get some quick runs on the board, and declare with a lead of 520.
Jos Buttler-Ben Stokes mammoth stand
The first session of the fourth day belonged to India, with the English top-order once against crumbling at the hands of the Indian pace unit. By the time Root was dismissed, the scorecard read 62/4, and the remainder of the game appeared to be a mere formality with the visitors sniffing a large win.
Buttler and Stokes, however, chose not to give up in such a gloomy situation, and instead opted to grind their way through at the start of the post-lunch session. Taking their own sweet time to collect the ones and twos initially, the two started to score a little more freely once the ball started getting older and the clouds made way for some sunshine. Buttler, who was dropped on 1 by Rishabh Pant (albeit off a tough chance), led the way as he brought up his maiden century, with Stokes bringing up his 14th Test fifty at the other end. With the two, whose partnership stretched to the 169-run mark before Jasprit Bumrah finally snapped it, the hosts had some hope of salvaging a draw.
Bumrah's spell with second new ball
The situation on Day 4 was starting to get increasingly worrisome for Kohli and his boys with Buttler and Stokes around. However, the visitors kept chipping away, and never lost hope or lost patience. They took the second new ball right away after the end of the 80th over, and it was Bumrah who got the much-awaited breakthrough by trapping Buttler lbw, albeit in a tight decision.
The wicketkeeper-batsman tried reviewing it, but to no avail. The breakthrough then turned into another collapse, as England were reduced to 241/8 from 231/4, with both Stokes and Buttler gone. Bumrah once again highlighted how much of an exciting prospect he is on surfaces such as these, and how much the team missed his services in the first two matches. The quick burst helped seal the game in India's favour, and the late resistance from tailenders Adil Rashid and Stuart Broad only helped delay the inevitable.