London, Sep 7 Between the end of the third Test at Headingley, where India were crushed by an innings, and the start of the fourth at The Oval, there was talk among experts about the possibility of off-spinner R Ashwin playing on a pitch that was closest to the one back in India.
As it unfolded, India didn’t feel the need for him. They brought in Umesh Yadav, who was previously reserved for matches at home and also fielded Shardul Thakur. Both played key roles.
Yadav’s inclusion gave India two bowlers who could swing the ball. The other being their frontline pacer, Jasprit Bumrah.
Swing, especially reverse swing, was something that India missed during the earlier three Tests.
With the pitch at The Oval being flat and the conditions dry and hot, India had an opportunity to play in conditions that were similar to those at home.
Yadav, who is a skiddy bowler and can bowl at pace, picked three wickets each in the two innings to end with a match haul of 6/136.
While his second innings wickets came towards the end of the innings when England had already lost the match, his first innings wickets were what made the difference.
He picked Joe Root with one that swung and beat the England captain’s defences late on Day 1. The next morning, he removed nightwatchman Craig Overton and No. 3 Dawid Malan with deliveries that swung a bit.
Bumrah, on the other hand, was fortunate to get two early wickets in the first innings on the first day as Haseeb Hameed played a poor shot and Rory Burns chopped the ball onto his stumps.
But come the fifth and final day on a used pitch, he brought reverse swing out of his quiver.
Bumrah went through the defences of both Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow to leave them tottering at 146/5.
That was the end of England’s chances of saving the Test as the last five wickets had to bat for over 50 overs which proved impossible as expected.
Kohli said reverse swing played a key role. He marked out Jasprit Bumrah for special praise.
“We exploited reverse swing perfectly today and we were actually looking at the opportunity of bowling with the old ball and looked at it as a positive rather than saying ‘look, nothing is happening from the pitch and what are we going to do here?’ Rather than that, we believed as a team that we could get all 10 wickets today and that is why it happened. Because the boys had belief,” said skipper Kohli after the match during the presentation ceremony.