England pulled off a stunning 378-run chase to win the rescheduled fifth Test against India by seven wickets at Edgbaston and level the series 2-2. It was England’s highest-ever successful chase in Test history. The victory was a tribute to England’s belief and their cavalier approach under the new captain-coach combination of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. On the other hand it was a crushing defeat for the Indians who dominated for most part of the Test and their 15-year wait for a series win in England continues. In the end it was a fitting finale to a thrilling series spread over 12 months.
England were playing catch-up ever since Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja lifted India from a precarious 98/5 on the first day with an entertaining 222-run stand. India gained a substantial first-innings lead of 132 despite a brilliant counterattacking ton by Jonny Bairstow. Once the Indians managed 245 in their second innings to set England a big target of 378, they were expected to make it 3-1. But England got off to a flier with openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley putting on 107.
Though stand-in captain Jasprit Bumrah’s twin strikes and Lees' run out soon reduced England to 109/3, top-ranked Test batter Joe Root and Bairstow put England on course with an unbeaten 150-run stand on the fourth evening. Needing a further 119 on the final day, Root (142 not out) and Bairstow (114 not out) took England home in the first session without much trouble to script a historic win. The very fact that England were home and dry in just 76.4 overs, with a stunning run rate of a shade under five, showed how dominant they were in the chase.
Indian head coach Rahul Dravid would have been disappointed with the toothless performance of his bowling attack in the fourth innings for the third time in an overseas Test this year. While the Indians had totals of less than 250 to defend in the second and third Tests in South Africa, this time even a score close to 380 did not help their cause. Barring Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, the support cast comprising seamer Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur and left-arm spinner Jadeja failed to exert any pressure on the England batting line-up.
There were too many loose balls and the Indians just could not choke the run flow. Defensive field placings by Bumrah on his captaincy debut too backfired on the Indians and one got the impression they pressed the panic button soon even with a truckload of runs to fall back on.
The defeat has also dealt a big blow to India’s hopes of making it to the final of the World Test Championship as they have missed out on precious points. The Indians would be utterly disappointed at squandering a rare chance to win a series in England.
For all the talk of India being a force to reckon with in the longer version of the game, apart from the two special triumphs Down Under (in 2018-19 and 2020-21), India have yet to register a single series win in South Africa, England and New Zealand in the last 13 years. This was a golden chance and the Indians have made a mess of it. The only consolation being the fact that they have managed to avoid a series loss in England for the first time in the last four attempts.