By Prof. B.K. Viswanath
Geoffrey Boycott was furious after England lost the second Test to India at Visakhapatnam on Monday Feb. 5th and he fused — “Bazball was a failure, a flop” and he lashed out at Brendon McCullum, the English coach and Ben Stokes, captain of the team. To cool down his outburst, one would remind Goeffrey of the match at Edgbaston in 2019 where the hosts had the last laugh against India. There were many good balls bowled by the pacemen in this match. In this context one would like to ask Sunil Gavaskar and Boycott as to which of the three balls delivered by Bumrah (2) and Anderson (1) were the deadliest and unplayable? In the first instance, Bumrah outclassed the first Test top order batsman Ollie Pope (who was largely responsible for the touring team’s victory at Hyderabad), with a torpedo like yorker and bamboozled him for a low score. He also bowled a beauty to the English skipper, who raised both his hands in disbelief, as the ball pierced his defense and hit his off stump. In India’s second Innings, skipper Rohit was beaten and bowled by Anderson with a ball that just curled in late and took away the off stump. The query might change Geoffrey’s anger into contemplation and leave Gavaskar in awe of the bowling magic of Bumrah and Anderson.
For India to level the series 1-1 and with three Tests to go, it needed superlative batting, Jaiswal as the opener, playing strokes all round the wicket with a few breath taking heaves out of the boundary to finish off with 209 runs in 290 minutes of match winning knock including 19 fours and 7 sixes, was the cynosure of all eyes. In spite of controlled bowling by Rehan, Anderson and Bashir of the English team, India notched up an imposing total of 396 in their first Innings.
The Brits, in their first Innings had a good opening stand but faltered later. Crawley batted confidently for a well compiled 76, Captain Stokes scored 47 attacking the bowlers at every opportunity. Hartley’s 21 was good but Root and Pope failed with the willow. Among Indian bowlers, Bumrah was in terrific form with speed, sharpness, movement and line & length, that enabled him wonderful figures of 6/45 and 3/46 totalling to an outstanding 9-91, on an almost docile wicket. This record spell in the match propelled him to the top spot in the ICC’s Test bowlers rankings. Kuldeep with his left arm spin obtained 3 wickets while Ashwin didn’t do that well, perhaps he reserved his skill for England’s second innings. England’s first Innings folded up at 253 giving India a lead of 143 runs that eventually sealed the match.
Batting in the second Innings, India could muster a total of 255. Gill sent to bat at number 3, played a mature, aggressive game and scored 104 runs to boost India’s total. Axar and Ashwin contributed 45 and 29 runs respectively. England in their second Innings, fought back well with the dependable opener Crawley, again cracking a majestic 73, while his partner Duckett made 28 runs. There were useful contributions from the wicket keeper Foakes (36) and a quick fire 36 from the first Test match winner Hartley. On India’s part Ashwin bowled beautifully grabbing 3 wickets while Bumrah accounted for 3 wickets. Ashwin needs just one more wicket to complete a tally of 500 in Tests. The performances by Team India resulted in victory by 106 runs.
India cannot afford to relax from the Vizag triumph as England is always capable of fighting back with the advantage of Bazball. They achieved almost an impossible victory against India at Edgbaston in 2019. It was an amazing feat to chase a target of 378.
Stokes led the batting performance and he with Leach, a number 11 batsman, took the score past India to win the match. Stokes and Leach added 76 runs towards the end to achieve a classic victory. It should be remembered that the English defeat at Vizag Test is likely to embolden the Brits to fight back later on in the series. Boycott’s warning cry -“If we can’t win, we will GO DOWN in glorious failure” is likely to enthuse England to be more positive in their approach. It is important for them that Root recovers on time from the finger injury before the next match, which would galvanize England to put up a good show. The former English captain and the present commentator Nasser Hussain was full of praise for Bumrah’s bowling. Nasser termed Bumrah’s spell as one of ‘magical’ brilliance and that it came from a ‘genius’ speedster. He opined that Bumrah’s bowling made all the difference as other cricketers joined him in complimenting the bowler’s swing, sharpness, line and length and occasionally deadly yorkers, especially the one delivery that uprooted Pope’s stumps. Bumrah’s was a stellar performance that played a pivotal role in India’s win.
In the Test match at Visakhapatnam, there was also good fielding from both the sides. For England, Stokes latched on to a brilliant catch to dismiss Shreyas as Stokes covered a lot of ground running back over his shoulder to catch the ball. Shreyas also made a wonderful stop of the ball and in one action threw it at the stumps as Stokes was out of the crease by a mere inch or two. It should be noted that Shreyas’s batting display was not up to mark and there is a likelihood of his being replaced. There was a very quick reflex catch in the slip by Rohit and the speed of reflection was measured at 0.45 seconds.
Besides the players’ exciting exhibition of the game, one must applaud the crowd which was alert in clapping a good drive, a great pick up in the field and the fall of a wicket of either side.