India pressed hard for a victory on day-5 of the 3rd Test match against England. But in the end, the England batsmen defended their way to the close of days’ play to leave India a few breaths short of victory.
Who knows what may have happened if India had another 15 or so overs? These, and other hypotheticals will surround the match, but the fact is that India won the series 1-0. It was an overseas series win to add to the win last year in the West Indies.
The day of “if only’s” commenced with an if-only off the very first ball. Sree Santh bowled a beauty to Alistair Cook that struck the batsman plumb in front. Umpire Ian Howell chose to not see it that way. During the day, Rahul Dravid dropped Michael Vaughan and M. S. Dhoni dropped Paul Collingwood. Both were difficult chances, but I’ve seen both Dravid and Dhoni take these. These missed catches added to the if-only ponderings.
However, in the end analysis, England had decided to pull down the shutters and play for a draw. The huge target put an England victory completely out of contention. But having decided that they would play for a draw, they proceeded down that path with aplomb. Instead of dour defence, they kept the scoreboard ticking — no doubt helped by the attacking fields that Dravid set at times. Pietersen was superb in his shot-selection as well as his innings-planning. He built the innings carefully and then played the gaps. He wouldn’t allow the bowlers to settle into a rhythm. Collingwood was a rock at one end as Pietersen scored freely at the other end.
The Indian bowlers toiled through the day and kept picking up wickets at regular intervals. But as in Sydney in 2004, India came close to winning the last Test in a marquee series, but not close enough.
Had India done the right thing by batting on? I think so — both in Sydney as well as at The Oval.
Had India delayed the declaration? I think so — both in Sydney as well as at The Oval, with the difference being that in Sydney, they played positive cricket in the second innings.
But all of that is irrelevant now. India has won the series here and that was mightily important to the team, its progress and her fans. The difference between a 1-0 series win and a 2-0 series win would have been (a) a few points on the ICC Championship Table, (b) the opportunity to be number 2 in the ICC table — level with England on 109 points — instead of number 3 — level with Sri Lanka on 107 points, (c) making winning a habit.
The team, through Dravid, sent a message that 1-0 was good enough and that is what we got.
England had battened down the hatches and saved the match, but lost the series. The series win was Dravid’s prime KPI and he, and his team, had delivered.
But more importantly, it was a good team effort. India went with an unchanged team in all three Test matches. The team played well together — without a coach — and came away with a fantastic win at Trent Bridge after being under the pump at Lord’s in the 1st Test. They had won a series in England after 21 years. They played smart cricket through the series.
Lets not take that away from this Indian team.