India beat England by an innings and 25 runs in the final Test in Ahmedabad to clinch the four-Test series 3-1 and with it secure a position in the final of the World Test Championship in England in June. The home team showed great resolve and character to come back from 0-1 down after losing the opener and win the remaining three matches in the series. India is making these great comeback fightbacks a sort of a habit of late. They were thrashed in the Day and Night series opener in Adelaide last year and fought back with an inspirational win at the MCG, then batted out of their skins to save the Test at the SCG before going on to take the series in the decider in Brisbane.
This new courage and spirit of fightback defines the current Indian team which has a great mix of some senior legends and young talent. We look at 3 moments from the England series – one each from the second to the fourth Tests – where India showed character and fought back in tough conditions and match situations.
1. Rohit Sharma – 161 (231 balls), First Innings, Second Test, Chennai
India were 0-1 down in the series and at 86 for 3 with Pujara and Kohli back in the pavilion in a spot of bother in the first innings of the second Test in Chennai. Rohit Sharma then produced one of the best Test hundreds at home by an Indian batsman hammering 161 off just 231 deliveries – his knock included 18 fours and two sixes. He had scored almost 65% of his team’s runs at the time of his dismissal. Overall Rohit scored 48.94% of India’s first innings total of 329 and was the difference between the two sides on a wicket aiding spinners from Day 1. Clarity of thought, solid in defence, positive intent and clean striking were the hallmarks of his majestic hundred. On a wicket where most of the other top and middle order struggled to stay at the crease, Rohit not only scored big but did so at a very high strike rate in the context of the match.
His knock gave India the ascendancy in the match and took them past the 300-run mark. It gave the two Indian spinners, Ashwin and Patel the runs they needed on the board to torment the English batsmen. Rohit’s innings led India’s fight back in the series – a fact acknowledged by skipper Virat Kohli at the end of the series.
2. Joe Root LBW R Ashwin, First Innings, Third Test, Ahmedabad
Joe Root was England’s star with the bat in their win in the series opener and their best batsman against spin in the first two Tests of the series. With the series tied at 1-1, England won a good toss in the Pink Ball Test at Motera and elected to bat first on what was expected to be a challenging wicket. They lost two early wickets but came right back into the contest with a fine rear guard action by opener, Zak Crawley and skipper, Root. The pair had brought England back into the contest and threatened to take the match away from India. A first innings total of above 200 on that wicket would have been advantage England.
But India’s ace spinner had other plans. Ashwin trapped Root leg before wicket from around the stumps with the England captain playing back in his crease to a delivery to which ideally he should have stretched forward and negotiated. That opened the floodgates for India as the visitors collapsed from 74 for 2 to 112 all out. They lost their last 8 wickets for just 38 runs. India had the upper hand thereafter and went on to win the match by 10 wickets.
3. Pant-Sundar Partnership, First Innings, Fourth Test, Ahmedabad
India were 2-1 up in the series but still needed to avoid a defeat not only to win the series but also book their place in the final of the World Test Championship in England in June. However, at 146 for 6, with all their specialist batsmen back in the hut, India were in deep trouble and still trailed England by 59 runs. They were in danger of being bowled out for a below-180 total which would have been doomsday for the home team given they had to bat last on a wicket assisting both the faster men and spinners.
But the young duo of Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar then turned the match on its head and against all odds put together a match-changing and defining partnership of 113 off 158 balls. By the time Pant was dismissed for a scintillating 101 off 118 deliveries, India were already in the driver’s seat with the team score at 259.
It was the ideal combination for India as Sundar held up one end when Pant went for the counter-attack at the other. While Pant was the aggressor with 71 off 66 balls in the partnership, it was Sundar who farmed the strike facing a majority 92 deliveries in a way shielding Pant from the bowling in his high risk game.