Off-spinning all-rounders Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel spun a web around England to help India seal the Test series and will play in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand on June 18. India beat England by an innings and 25 runs to seal the series 3-1. Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar helped India with the bat. The former smashed a brilliant century while the latter was stranded on 96 not out having run out of partners on the other end.
While heading to this series, India and England had the odds stacked against them. Both teams needed to win this series to play New Zealand for the final at the Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. After winning the toss, nothing seemed to go England’s way.
Once again, England’s team selection came into question as they dropped Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad to bring in Ollie Pope and Dom Bess. With only one specialist pacer – James Anderson – all-rounder Ben Stokes was the only fast bowler. Having an extra pacer could have helped England bowl India out for under 300.
England’s inability to score runs is also worrying. Former England captain Nasser Hussain slammed England’s batting saying that they scrapped past a modest total (205-10) in the first innings thanks to Anderson’s batting. “Five times England have failed to make 200 in this Test series. Now they have only just scraped past that modest total thanks to a couple of reverse sweeps from Anderson. It just shows where they are with their batting conditions,” Nasser wrote in an article for a British news agency. He continues, “They left out two of their seamers because they thought the ball would spin from day one again but as it turned out it did a bit for Mohammed Siraj and Ishant Sharma on the first morning.” Siraj also managed to get two big wickets – England captain Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow – in the first innings. Bairstow is going through his worst phase as a Test batsman with six ducks in nine innings. Though Bairstow is known to be a good player against spin, the Yorkshireman has been dismissed to spinners in the last three out of four innings. Besides Root and Stokes, no England batsmen have seemed comfortable in this series and have found it difficult to adapt. Compared to the previous Test match, the pitch in the fourth Test was not a first-day rank turner.
While England has to sort out their team and have a consistent playing XI, India has a few problems of their own. Besides, Rohit Sharma and Pant, no other Indian batsman have got it going in this series. One bright spot for India has been there lower order. With the emergence of Washington Sundar as a proper all-rounder, India can bat quite deep. But Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane struggling, could be a problem for India when they head to England to play the final. However, one silver lining for India is the likes of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal warming the bench. Including an experienced opener like Shikhar Dhawan could help India.
Going into the WTC final, India will be facing a quality bowling line-up with the likes of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee. With the conditions in England being overcast during June, these three will be lethal against Indian batsmen has they will be able to generate a lot of swing. In the bowling department, India doesn’t have too many problems as they have a wide variety of bowlers. However, India’s biggest strength is its “never give up” attitude and its determination to fight back. With this series victory of England, India is now the number 1 ranked Test team in the world and finish first on the WTC standings.