That was the only time Jamie Overton looked nervous after banging into his 90s in his first Test. Eventually he dropped to 97, got a bear hug from Jonny Bairstow and left to a standing ovation from the Headingley crowd. The newcomer was allowed to be nervous as he neared the moment of his cricket life. However, ninety-seven percent of his innings exuded the courage that “Bazball” demands.
To paraphrase the Beatles, Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum took a sad song and made it better very quickly.
Exhibition 1: A year ago at Lord’s New Zealand had declared their second innings and England had set a target of 273 in 75 overs on the final day. Joe Root and Chris Silverwood’s team opted for a boring draw instead. About 10 days ago at Trent Bridge, England’s fourth innings goal was against New Zealand 299 in 72 overs on the final day of the second Test. Ben Stokes and McCullum’s side went home in 50 overs, winning by five wickets.
Exhibition 2: In the ongoing third Test at Headingley, England’s top order at sea was against Trent Boult’s swing bowling masterclass. That first spell from Boult would have shattered any top order, in fact, and the hosts slumped to 17/3 and then 21/4 when Tim Southee removed Joe Root with a beauty. Bairstow and Stokes countered the fast New Zealand bowlers and although the England captain died trying to increase the tempo, his team did not lose their tackling intent. At 55/6, Overton paired with Bairstow and a 241-run, 274-ball partnership ensued. It was exhilarating cricket. And forget Bairstow’s back-to-back hundreds, when a debutant can play so fearlessly under pressure that it typifies a team’s positive culture shift.
In five days, India meets a new England at Edgbaston. This England team is not bundled into one session; They do not retreat in the face of opponent aggression. And India will carry its own woes to the forthcoming fifth Test of a series that began last year and was 2-1 in favor of Tourists when it suffered a Covid-forced postponement.
Virat Kohli has not scored an international century in two and a half years, averaging over 30 in tests during that time. For the first time in almost five years, his career average has fallen below 50. Last year, when India toured England, Kohli was the team’s undisputed leader in all formats. A lot has changed since then. England also have a new captain in Stokes, but his predecessor Root hasn’t lost his run-scoring mojo. He is the world’s No. 1 Test batsman, with a match win of a hundred in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, his latest world-class offering. Billing the fifth Test as Kohli versus Root is fraught with risk, with the latter operating in a different stratosphere where runs are scored while Kohli, 33, appears to be headed for the twilight zone unless a second blows Wind.
Rohit Sharma has signed Covid and is ready to miss the test. And more than the captain’s problem – Jasprit Bumrah will step in – it creates a serious batting gap. Rohit was immense for India last year and despite having a poor IPL he is the team’s batting queen along with Kohli. Also, India have now lost their two first-choice opening games. Shubman Gill is a very good replacement for KL Rahul, but Rohit’s absence could have a negative impact.
Cheteshwar Pujara has returned to the Test group thanks to his 720 carries in eight innings for Sussex, including four centuries. But he would still walk a tightrope that failure at Edgbaston could be the curtain call for him. And nobody knows which Rishabh Pant would show up. Its grandeur is India’s capital. But sometimes Pant can be messy.
Bowling wasn’t India’s problem. Bumrah and Company are guaranteed performers regardless of the terms. But beating the team, especially the middle order, when Kohli isn’t on form doesn’t inspire confidence. Missing shots cost India the series in South Africa and this time in England in the winter, their challenge is steeper.
Last year England looked like defeatists, a batting side who were bullied by Bumrah and when they went Down Under for the Ashes they were beaten by Pat Cummins troops. England have risen from the ashes, under Rob Key, chief executive of the country’s men’s cricket team, who showed the courage to hand the reins of the Test team to McCullum and got him out of the IPL. Stokes taking command of Root was a formality and freed the former captain.
England will bring the confidence of their series win against the reigning Test champions to Edgbaston. Their bowlers are on form and James Anderson would be fresh after a well-deserved break in the third Test. Her batsmen revel in her newfound determination. England are in the middle of their testing season. India lacks the time for red ball games. The Indian broadcaster’s slogan “ab hogi poori dhulai” sounds a bit exaggerated.
“Beer maven. Creator. Tv fanatic. Internet scholar. Award-winning web junkie. Avid alcohol expert. Friendly writer. Gamer.”