England chased down a record 378-run target to win the rescheduled 5th Test against India at Edgbaston and level the series 2-2. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were the architects of a historic victory for England, who bounced back from a disappointing first innings performance with the bat.
This was England’s highest successful run-chase in Test cricket. In 2019, they had chased down 362 for 9 against Australia at Leeds thanks to a Ben Stokes masterclass. Ironically, Stokes is now England’s Test captain.
It was a scintillating Test match from the outset. After winning the toss, England did well to rock India’s top-order. Without Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, India opened with Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara, who could add only 27 for the first wicket in the first innings. Hanuma Vihari, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer failed to make contributions of any significance as India reeled at 98 for five before a sensational rescue job by Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja.
Rishabh Pant (146) hit his 5th Test hundred while Ravindra Jadeja followed up on an epic 175 with a splendid 104 before Jasprit Bumrah’s cameo helped India to 416. England’s top-order did not fire either and Bairstow was the only bright spot with a fine 106 off 140 balls as they were bowled out for 284.
India’s second innings looked more promising thanks to Cheteshwar Pujara’s gutsy half-century and Rishabh Pant’s 57, but the others failed to stand up again. Virat Kohli continued with his dismal run and Shreyas Iyer was disappointing; in a meek batting display, India were rolled over for 245 at a time when they should have got a lot more.
However, India still had 377 runs to bowl with and their bowlers ended up conceding their highest total ever in a Test match. It has been a worrying sign for India since the start of the year but this performance in England will and should hurt for a long time.
England openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley got off to a sensational start in pursuit of a record total. The pair looked comfortable against Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami with the new ball and added 107 for the first wicket. Bumrah returned for a fresh spell to remove Crawley and Ollie Pope, while Lees was run out for 56 following an exchange of words with Virat Kohli. Suddenly, England had lost three wickets in the space of four overs and it looked like India were making one of their fiery comebacks.
But as things turned out, there was no real fightback.
Joe Root has been in sublime form since the start of 2021, while Jonny Bairstow has been the epitome of England’s Bazball approach in the new regime of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes. The Root – Bairstow pair had chased down a hefty total against New Zealand just a few days back but this was something else. At 109 for three, the game was still wide open and there was a hint of reverse from Bumrah and Shami. But Mohammad Siraj and Shardul Thakur were far from impressive and often failed to bowl to their fields.
In a bewildering strategy, Ravindra Jadeja was tasked with bowling a rather negative line. The left-arm spinner targeted the right-handed batters’ leg-stump in an attempt to dry up the runs at a point when he should have been looking for wickets.
England ended the penultimate day needing only 119 runs with seven wickets in hand. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were well settled and they still had Ben Stokes to come. India were expected to mount a fightback on the final day and R Ashwin shared an Instagram story to say it was overcast at Edgbaston. But nothing would deter England from chasing down history as Joe Root went on to score his fifth Test hundred of the year and in the process went past Virat Kohli and Steve Smith in the tally of Test match hundreds.
Jonny Bairstow became the first England player since Andrew Strauss in 2008 to score two hundreds in a Test match. Incidentally, Strauss’s twin hundreds had also come against India in Chennai. On that occasion, India had chased down a mammoth target to register a memorable victory.
There was little fight left in the Indian bowling line-up on the fifth day. Barring Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, the Indian attack lacked sting and did not pose any threat to England.
This is now India’s third successive defeat in overseas Tests and questions perhaps will be asked of the team management and their inability to get the best out of their pacers. Virat Kohli’s form should also concern the team. He has not scored a hundred in nearly three years, but more important, he has not had any impact for the side.
The Indian team looked flat and the body language was a let-down on the fourth afternoon as Root and Bairstow started their marathon partnership to eventually seal victory for England.