India vs England: Rare off-day but pacers give hope

By Rahul Ravikumar| Express News Service | Published: 11th September 2018 01:45 AM
J Bumrah has 14 scalps to his name. (File | AP)

CHENNAI : As a grinning Alastair Cook waved his bat around at the Oval on Monday after having etched a memorable swansong, there was a fielder at point who put on display a perfect teapot before joining in with the applauding crowd.The veteran southpaw had coasted to his 33rd Test ton courtesy an overthrow from Jasprit Bumrah; an apt moment to sum up the contrasting days the two had been having at office. On one hand was a man who had notched up a century in his final international innings, and on the other was a man who had toiled his way through 36 wicketless balls, just a small part of the many such deliveries he’d send down for the rest of the day.

He wasn’t the only pacer to bend his back over again and again in vain. Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma too whittled away at England’s stubborn batting line-up, with the former getting a consolation in the form of Jonny Bairstow. That Hanuma Vihari got rid of England’s two centurions — Cook and Joe Root — with two successive trundlers was enough to convey the tedium that Monday had been for them.

“See. You can’t expect them to keep delivering every day. They’ve bowled their hearts out for this entire series,” remarked former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad. “This match had a track that had hardly anything in it, and they still kept plugging away. It was a bit anti-climactic, but our pacers have been the biggest silver lining.”

Numbers also nod along with Gaekwad’s observation. India’s speedsters have raked in 61 wickets on this tour, three more than what the pace triumvirate of Kapil Dev, Karsan Ghavri and Roger Binny had taken against Pakistan in 1979-80; a new record for the nation.And, this tour hasn’t been the only time when India’s speedsters have shone. Before the start of the final Test, their collective average for 2018 (23.25) was the lowest that number has been for a calendar year that has featured a minimum of five fixtures.

“Over the past couple of years or so, our bowlers have literally grown into men,” observed Gaekwad. “You have that X factor in Bumrah, who can either send down wides or balls like the one that did Keaton Jennings in (at Rose Bowl). You have Ishant, who over the past couple of years, has picked up the smarts that he had been missing. You have Shami and his ability to reverse and skid the ball. And you have Umesh’s (Yadav) pace. Had Bhuvi also been in the mix, things could perhaps have been different.“This attack has a balance that was missing before. That England didn’t dish out surfaces as green as before shows that even they recognised the threat posed by them.

And, I was impressed by their fitness levels. With that kind of weather — which can easily exacerbate injuries — they still sent down 40-50 overs in each match.”

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