India versus England: On Sunday, England batted and collapsed like their teams from the 1990s


Rajkot (India), Feb. 18: If Saturday afternoon was overcooking of their Bazball cult persona, Sunday was a throwback to an earlier English era of resignation to a lost cause. They came, they swished, and they fell.

It took two Tests into the series but normalcy returned to an India-England series at home. Finally. Over the decades, barring Alastair Cook-led team’s heroics in 2012, Indian fans have been used to watching pasty-faced Englishmen, surrounded by an Indian mob of fielders, and being clueless in front of the stumps. They would poke, push, stab, and flail out their sweeps. And the English top order finally did that on Sunday evening to hand a 2-1 series lead to India.

There was more than English collapse to the 90’s nostalgia as the left-handed Yashasvi Jaiswal became the third youngest to score two double tons. Don Bradman was the second, but the youngest was Vinod Kambli, another Indian left-hander who whacked the English for the first of his two in 1993. Jaiswal’s frenzy allowed India to declare at 430 for 4, setting a target of 557 and England were shot out for 122 in under 40 overs.

The large six-seater Rajkot autos had started to arrive not long after tea to pick up many of the strong Sunday-crowd fans as the English fight had evaporated rather too quickly into the late afternoon air. It’s a credit to England that this throwback moment has taken this long to arrive and if not for the manic batting on the third day, this moment might never have come too.

Ollie Pope, the hero of the first Test, went for a cut to a ball from Ravindra Jadeja that had some extra bounce and also came at a fair clip to force him to hurry with his shot. The ball flew to midriff of Rohit Sharma at slips. As is his wont with such catches, Rohit opened his palms to fling the cherry into the air with both hands still pressed together ala Azharuddin in those days of English collapse. It used to be Kumble, Raju or Chauhan then; these days it’s with a bit of help from Indian seamers too.

Jonny Bairstow, in the midst of a forgettable series, went for a sweep shot, missed and was trapped LBW.

Again, sweep-and-out had the 90’s feel to it. It used to be Robin Smith then; it’s Bairstow now.

Joe Root, who had got out to rushes of blood twice in succession, never looked settled out there again. With the ball beginning to keep low, he was trying to squirt it out to slip, nurdling across the line, trying to even pull. And unsurprisingly, he too went for a sweep off Jadeja but didn’t get down in time. He is a fabulous sweeper usually and on his good days would get his back knee down in a flash or crouch really low on the front foot. He did neither here, and his bat parallel to the ground swished over the ball and was trapped lbw.

Ben Stokes, the leader, had seen enough by then and had enough of tuk-tuk cricket as well, and went for a powerful sweep. But he too missed and Kuldeep too had a lbw victim.

Amidst all this, there was a run-out too. There had to be. It came right at the start when Ben Duckett pushed one towards the right of midwicket and rushed headlong but Zak Crawley wasn’t least bit interested. Duckett might still have survived but the alert Dhruv Jurel had run in towards the stump with the shot and was able to swoop low to collect a dipping throw away from the stumps from Mohammad Siraj and somehow manage to whip off the bails. Duckett had given up the ghost already, and it was a sign of things to come as Jadeja ran away to a five-for on his return to the Test team to go with his match-setting hundred in the first innings.

The nostalgia wasn’t just restricted to India’s bowling but also their batting as they bossed around in some style until they declared. Even the nightwatchman Kuldeep Yadav batted on without any fuss; such was India’s domination. The only blip came when Shubman Gill was run out on 91. Kuldeep charged out for a drive and then took a couple more steps and Gill responded swiftly.

But once Kuldeep changed his mind, neither had the presence of mind to keep running on to sacrifice the nightwatchman as it all happened far too quickly in the moment. And Gill couldn’t get back in time and Kuldeep sank to his knees at the other end.

Barring that, it was all India. Jaiswal, who had retired hurt last evening to back spasm, walloped the ball around. The highlight was a hattrick of sixes off James Anderson – a lapped six off a full toss, an imperious walk down the track to smash over extra cover, and a shuffle to off before biffing the ball to the sight screen. Sarfaraz Khan, already a crowd favourite, too went for his lofted hits on a stretched front foot and slog sweeps as India marched on toward declaration. And as it turned out, it was a march towards a thumping win. Jadeja had his hands aloft after the fifth wicket to seal the game, but otherwise it was a quiet celebration from the team. They shook each other’s hands, a light tap on the backs and Rohit led the team back to the dressing room. Over to Ranchi, now.-Agencies

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