IND vs ENG: How young India rallied to tame the Bazballers, win series

Jaiswal exceeds all expectations among several positive takeaways in four Tests so far

Player of the Match Jurel, Gill during their match-winning stand in Ranchi. (BCCI/X)
Player of the Match Jurel, Gill during their match-winning stand in Ranchi. (BCCI/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s a series win which, despite India’s dominance in home series for close to last 12 years, will be something very close to their hearts. The 3-1 verdict, with the final Test in Dharamsala still to go, did not follow the usual template of spinners running down the opposition in one-sided contests – but was the result of a complete team effort which saw them bounce back after a demoralising defeat in the first Test.

While young Yashasvi Jaiswal exceeded all expectations to emerge as India’s new batting superstar for the future with 600-plus runs, three of India’s four debutants – Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel and Akash Deep showed they were battle ready. The senior pros put their hands up time and again with Jasprit Bumrah bowling his heart out on flat decks, Ravi Ashwin completing his date with 500 Test wickets, Ravindra Jadeja playing his part as a regular No.5 in the absence of Virat Kohli and then KL Rahul and Shubman Gill regaining his confidence.

There was a brief flutter in the post-lunch session on fourth day in Ranchi when India lost two quick wickets in Sarfaraz and Jadeja while chasing 192 for victory. It’s precisely why low targets are often considered tricky – what with the widening cracks and the uncertain bounce of the pitch making batting challenging. The loss of another wicket at 120 for five could have made things difficult for the hosts but Gill, in company with Jurel, held their nerves for a 72-run partnership to snatch a famous win at M.S.Dhoni’s hometown.

It’s turned to be a fascinating Test series so far though Ben Stokes’ England may be wondering whether they have let their best opportunity to go to avenge a humiliating 3-1 defeat in the 2021 series. Their plan of counterattacking the Indian spinners worked perfectly in the first Test in Hyderabad, helping them take an early lead in the series while the hosts opted for better batting conditions in the next two Tests in Vizag and Rajkot. However, the Bazballers seemed to have crossed the thin line between an aggressive approach and being cavalier to often waste favourable situations – with Joe Root’s notorious reverse sweep coming in for some serious criticism in Rajkot.

The jury for Player for the Match award was spot-on in choosing the 23-year-old Jurel as the Player of the Match as his composure both in front of the wicket as well as behind it has been exemplary. The UP youngster, drafted into the squad more as a back-up to K.S. Bharat (with Ishan Kishan out of reckoning) with only 15 first class matches behind him, showed a remarkable match awareness in both innings in Ranchi. . He may have narrowly missed his first Test century, but the way he batted with tailenders for his 90 and helped India reduce the first innings deficit to just 46 runs set the tone of the match. A target of 250 or thereabouts in these conditions could have been a handful for the Indian batters.

A series win like this often glosses over shortcomings, but the Rohit Sharma & Rahul Dravid combine deserve a pat on the back for showing a courage of conviction and also not shying away from taking a few tough calls. A major one must have been to blood rookie Jurel in place of the more experienced Bharat in the middle of such a high profile Test series or the one of preferring Akash Deep – who likes to hit the deck hard on a wicket like this for his cutters – in place of Mukesh Kumar who needs a bit more on helpful conditions.

The series sealed 3-1, India now go to Dharamsala in a relaxed frame of mind. It’s very unlikely that Bumrah will be brought back for a dead rubber while the only area of concern will be Rajat Patidar’s loss of confidence despite enough chances. The next few days will answer the question…

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