Just as Joe Root seemed poised to continue the dominance that has kept England in this tumultuous series and propelled him back to the top of the world batting tree, Umesh Yadav produced the magical moment that this fourth Test and series would see India’s side. can change.
Root looked like a batsman who has made six centuries this year and three in the last three Tests against India, as he slipped to 21 in the company of Dawid Malan to help England recover from the early loss of both openers in a Jasper Bumrah finish. about.
But at the end of a day when England had justified their captain’s decision to bowl first by sacking India for 191 just five minutes away, the gem of a delivery from an unheralded member of India’s powerful attack came.
Joe Root fell to give India a huge boost on a day when their opponents had won
India’s Umesh Yadav celebrates after taking England captain’s wicket
Yadav, a surprise roster in an Indian squad that, against all odds and logic, had again omitted Ravichandran Ashwin, cut one late back through the gate to hit the top of the bail with an incredulous Root, fractionally late on the shot .
It left England, at 53 for three, 138 behind and with someone other than their captain needed to lift them into the lead that looked guaranteed as Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson sent India to another underscore.
We asked what could happen next in this tumultuous series and the answer was another action packed day that ended with 13 wickets falling and the honours being roughly equal.
It started with Root appearing to have gambled, perhaps with the first day in Headingley in mind when India was bulldozed to 78 all-out, deciding to bowl on a ground where it is usually an automatic choice to bat.
Burns lost his wicket early in England’s response when Jasprit Bumrah had the better of him
And perhaps that extra expectation that comes from bowling first, albeit on a greener-than-usual Oval surface, weighed heavy, even on Jimmy Anderson’s shoulders, both out of tune and grumpy, as he cashed in 20 in his first four-over- spell.
But the mood of the day changed as soon as Woakes was thrown for his first bowl of Test cricket after a 12-month absence of accidents, some self-inflicted and others merely unlucky.
It was as if Woakes, who had pitched just 38 competitive overs this season and had seen his spell in exile extended by a bizarre heel injury sustained on the stairs at home, had never been gone.
Chris Woakes (centre), on his return to Test cricket, celebrates taking the wicket from Rohit Sharma
Robinson roars with delight after trapping KL Rahul lbw to exit India 28-2 at the Kia Oval
When Woakes, England’s 2020 Test player, found swing and extra bounce to put Rohit Sharma behind Jonny Bairstow, it was a different game, India struggled against the moving ball almost as much as on that first day in Leeds.
At its center was a returning hero from this England side in Woakes and a newcomer who already seems destined to become a staple of the Test attack in Robinson for many years to come.
What a first full summer of Test cricket Robinson has and how impressive he was here again taking a further three wickets to bring his number to 26 in just his fifth Test and sack Indian captain Virat Kohli for the third time this series .
It had looked as if England would regret the first of four missed chances when Kohli was dropped by Root on his right at 22 on the first slip of Woakes, with the ball swinging late after leaving the India captain’s bat.
But just after Kohli hit his second straight 50 and looked more comfortable than ever in this series, Robinson bowled a little shorter and saw an inswinger take the lead as the India captain tried to spin the ball in the leg.
Evergreen James Anderson was one of the wickets again, beating Cheteshwar Pujara
This time, however, it wasn’t Robinson, nor even Anderson, who recovered from his poor opening spell to find late move to sack Cheteshwar Pujara, who would prove to be the England attack’s favourite.
That credit fell to Woakes, even though he was the unlucky bowler again when Craig Overton dropped Rishabh Pant on nine dives on the third slip when, as with the opportunity missed by Root, the ball appeared to go to Rory Burns in second place. to go.
Woakes may have been lucky that Pant seemed determined to give his wicket away with reckless plodding in demanding conditions, eventually hollowing out to Moeen Ali at long range. It’s not good enough for Pant to say this is the way he plays. It was just irresponsible.
Virat Kohli (R) reached half a century, but was then fired for bowling Robinson
But Woakes richly deserved his four for 55, including the wicket of the man who kept India in the hunt with the kind of controlled counter-attack that went beyond Pant.
Shardul Thakur was another returning member of this Indian squad after hamstring problems, but showed why he is known as ‘Beefy’ in the Indian dressing room by usurping the big man by beating England’s fastest half-century Test ever.
Thakur hit a total of 57 of 36 balls despite being dropped by Robinson’s Bairstow at 43, reaching his 50 by pulling Robinson powerfully for the last of his three sixes.
Once Thakur was gone, India collapsed quickly, the last three wickets fell into four balls, making Overton complete England’s poor fielding by dropping Yadev, but then saw Burns make up for the missfield by immediately running out of Bumrah.
India finished the day well and the game is well balanced for the Friday morning session
When India collapsed in Leeds, England’s new opening pair reacted with a score of 135, but this time both were gone by the end of the fourth left.
Burns was bowled when he tried to defend Bumrah, but what was even more disturbing was that Haseeb Hameed was out for a really terrible shot when four balls later he tried to make a throw that was way too close to him and that little bit of extra bounce had received.
While Root and Malan were tied at 46, England looked to finish the day on top, but Yadev’s beauty has put everything back in balance. That’s what we’ve come to expect from this unpredictable, compelling series.