Review | Young Team India's triumph augurs well for future

Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel
Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel took India home in a tense chase at Ranchi. File photo: PTI/Vijay Verma

India continued their winning streak at home with a five-wicket win over England in the fourth Test at Ranchi on Monday. The hard-fought victory helped India take an unassailable 3-1 lead, with the final Test scheduled to begin at Dharamasala on March 7. 

Rohit Sharma's men were stretched all the way by Ben Stokes and Co. in what has been the most competitive series on Indian soil since the 2-1 win achieved by the home side against Australia in a four-match series in 2017. Rohit will be both proud and relieved after India sealed their 17th home series win in a row. India were without Kohli and Mohammed Shami, while the injured K L Rahul featured in just the opening Test. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja missed the second Test with an injury while Jasprit Bumrah was rested for the Ranchi game. 

India handed debuts to Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel and Akash Deep during the course of the series. The hosts were under pressure after England pulled off a stunning win in the series opener in Hyderabad. The home side rallied to draw level at Visakhapatnam before going 2-1 up at Rajkot. 

Wicketkeeper-batter Jurel has been the find of the series. Playing just his second Test, the 23-year-old from Agra showed solid temperament and game awareness to keep India in the match, with a fine 90 in the first innings at Ranchi. England won a crucial toss and Joe Root's composed unbeaten 122 and fine contributions from wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and tailender Ollie Robinson took them to an above-par total of 353 after pacer Akash's triple strikes in first session left them reeling at 112/5. 

Jurel's knock and his crucial partnerships with Kuldeep Yadav and Akash for the eighth and ninth wickets meant India ate into England's lead and limited it to 46. Veteran off-spinner R Ashwin made his first real impact of the series with a five-wicket haul in the second innings, while left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep scalped four to bowl England out for 145. The visitors lost their last seven wickets for the addition of a mere 35 runs. 

Dhruv Jurel
Dhruv Jurel's 90 in the first innings kept India in the Ranchi Test. File photo: PTI/Vijay Verma

Openers Rohit and Yashasvi Jaiswal, who has been in red-hot form, knocked off 40 runs in just eight overs on the third evening to put India in the driver's seat. However, rookie spinners Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley bowled their heart out to reduce India to 120/5 shortly after lunch on the fourth day. Shubman Gill and Jurel played sensibly and used their feet to good effect to keep the English spinners at bay. The unbroken 72-run stand took India home and helped them consolidate their second spot in the World Test Championships (WTC) standings. 

Stokes and England head coach Brendon McCullum will look at the series as a missed opportunity. The last time India lost a home Test series was in 2012 when Alastair Cook's England trumped India 2-1 The hopes were high that Bazball will end India's dominant home run and England will do an encore. They rode on special performances by Ollie Pope (196) and debutant Hartley (7/62) in the second innings to notch up a sensational win in the first Test. But as expected India bounced back at Visakhapatnam with Jaiswal smashing a double hundred and Bumrah returning match figures of 9/91. England were in with a big  chance to gain the upper hand in the third Test as Ben Duckett's rollicking hundred took them to 207/2 at the end of the second day after tons by Rohit and Jadeja lifted India to 445. But Kuldeep and pacer Mohammed Siraj rose to the occasion to bundle England out for 319 on the third afternoon. The Indian bowlers were helped by some injudicious strokeplay with Root's ill-timed reverse scoop of Bumrah being the turning point. India were always in the ascendancy once they gained a first innings lead of 126 and went on to register their biggest Test win by runs - 434. 

Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja
Skipper Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja played key roles in India's series win. File photo: PTI/Vijay Verma

The series would have taught the England batters the virtue of patience when the situation demands, especially in alien conditions. No doubt England have won the hearts of the cricket lovers with Bazball style and Stokes' imaginative field placements. But the fact remains they have been not able to win any of their last three series. They drew 1-1 with New Zealand in an away series, while being held 2-2 at home by Australia in the Ashes last year. Stokes, who suffered his first series loss as captain, will be the first to admit that India won the big moments and found a way through at the crunch. 

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes suffered his first Test series loss as England captain. File photo: PTI/Vijay Verma

England will be keen to make it 3-2 at Dharamsala, while India will eye another win and look to add 12 more WTC points to their kitty. The Indian think tank deserves praise for opting for good pitches and it has been mostly an equal battle between the bat and ball. The Indian pacers had an equal role in their side's triumph as the spinners. Rohit and head coach Dravid will be pleased with the way the young team has responded to the challenges and it augurs well for the future of the Indian Test side.

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