At the end of another enthralling Test match in which India came up trumps, Cameron Ponsonby takes a close look at the key talking points.
The win, India’s first in Tests at The Oval since 1971, saw the visitors go 2-1 up in the series with just one match left to play.
Was Ashwin’s non-selection the right call?
Shardul Thakur got runs, Umesh Yadav poled Root with a beauty in the first innings and Ravindra Jadeja spun England out on day five. So, was Kohli right to once again not select Ashwin?
Sport operates on a results basis. If the ends justify the means then more often than not it is decided that the correct decision was made. However, it is also possible that India won despite not playing Ashwin, not because of it. Ashwin can also score runs, bowl beauties and spin teams out on day five.
But, on the other hand, India were seamed out for 191 on the first day. The same reason England didn’t bowl a single over of spin on the first day is the same reason that India would say their selection of just one spinner in Jadeja was the correct call. A team picked on the basis of conditions and not on the basis of reputations.
Where others may say trust the process, Kohli says trust the result. And the result says he was right.
368 runs is a lot and not chasing it isn’t England’s problem
There’s a reason it would’ve been a record run-chase for England, because 368 is loads. It would’ve been a monumental achievement and failure to do so should not be the main point of inquiry when it comes to the autopsy of England’s defeat. The failure does not lie in failing to chase 368, but having to do so in the first place.
England had won this game twice, but ended up losing. They’d bowled India out for under 200 on the first day and led by 99 runs midway through the second. But it was “only” 99. India are a wonderful team and in order to beat them everything needs to go right. England had forged a winning opportunity across the first day and a half, but they failed to take the game away from them when they had the chance to do so. A missed opportunity.
Chris Woakes is very good
Woakes’ return to the side yielded seven wickets in total and an important half-century in the first innings. He was England’s standout bowler in both innings and claimed the wicket of Rohit Sharma in his first over of the match.
Woakes’ exceptional home record is now safely in the territory of being an absurd home record. He has played 25 Test matches in England with an average of 35.25 with the bat and 22.63 with the ball. Finish a career with numbers like that and you’d be considered an all-time great of the game.
However, it’s an oddity of the game that sometimes your best statistics can be held against you. So as much as Woakes’ home record is sung in his favour, his comparatively poor away record is then held against him. His metronomic action which is perfect for English conditions is said to turn him into a predictable bowling machine away from home where the ball moves less off the wicket. However, his ability with the bat means this doesn’t have to be the case. In England, he can be a bowler who bats. Away from home, he can be a batter who bowls. Serving the role as a fourth seamer away from home he can act as a control bowler and also be in England’s top seven batters. Chris Woakes. He’s good.
Enter Woakes, exit Ali?
All-rounders solve problems. They let you balance the team in whichever way you best please. For England, that is a desire to pick the best four seamers available to them and the best spinner. Earlier in the series, Ali was the key to that problem as he allowed England to pick four seamers whilst he could be the spinner that balances the side at seven.
However, the return of Woakes means that he could feasibly be that all-rounder at seven which would then allow for a specialist spinner to be picked. With Woakes at seven, the door would once again be ajar for a Jack Leach, a Dom Bess or a Matt Parkinson to come in as an out-and-out spinner. Do I think that’s the right call? Pffff… I’d still pick Mo for now, though Ben Gardner isn’t so sure.
Is 2021 Shardul Thakur 2018 Sam Curran?
It wouldn’t be a modern day England-India series without some exciting lower-order runs. Batting at eight and giving it a biff while popping up with vital opposition wickets – Shardul Thakur made things happen at The Oval.
Thakur lengthened India’s tail and frustrated the England attack by consistently plopping them into the stands. His half-century in the first innings dragged India back into the game, whilst his half-century in the second innings dragged the game away from England. Combine picking up the vital wicket of Ollie Pope in the first innings with the dismissal of Joe Root in the second and the present-day Shardul Thakur was doing his best latter-day Sam Curran impression.