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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant heroics in vain as England beat India in Oval Test

England beat India by 118 runs in their final test despite defiant centuries from KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant, as a series full of twists reached a compelling conclusion at the Oval on Tuesday.

cricket Updated: Sep 11, 2018 22:37 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
England's James Anderson (L) celebrates with England's Alastair Cook after taking the wicket of India's Mohammed Shami.
England's James Anderson (L) celebrates with England's Alastair Cook after taking the wicket of India's Mohammed Shami.(AFP)

KL Rahul had been searching to regain lost momentum, while young Rishabh Pant realised playing his way would serve his career. Together, they lit up the last day of India’s disappointing Test series against England at the Oval on Tuesday.

It finished perfectly for England as James Anderson bowled Mohammed Shami to seal a 118-run win and become the most successful Test fast bowler, surpassing Glenn McGrath’s tally of 563, in a perfect farewell to Alastair Cook. The hosts won the series 4-1 when the match ended under floodlights.

But India didn’t throw in the towel. Rahul and Pant made skipper Joe Root sweat as they launched a sensational counter-attack. The innings – Rahul’s fifth Test century and fourth away and Rishabh Pant’s audacious maiden century for a first by an Indian wicketkeeper in England – initially looked separate from the match. But soon it provided galvanized the fans.

It was important India showed resilience and the two batsmen lifted a gloom in the dressing room after the Cook and Root show of Day 4.

READ: James Anderson achieves massive milestone at Oval

Rahul (149 -- 224b, 20x4, 1x6) and Pant (114 – 146b, 15x4, 4x6) thrilled the Oval crowd. They attacked Ben Stokes’ short balls, with hope one mistake would help run through the rest. But their 204-run sixth wicket partnership, from before lunch to after tea on the last day at one point even raised hopes of the impossible.

Pant played a robust innings, hammering leg-spinner Adil Rashid, and Rahul was steady as they were going at around five runs an over. It left things balanced at tea -- India needing 166 runs at around 4.5/over and England undecided whether to take the new ball with two set batsmen playing.

Rashid’s ripper from outside leg to hit off-stump end Rahul’s stay, ended that dilemma. Two overs later Pant, till then sensational and given licence to play his style, failed to clear Moeen Ali at long off as the leggie had his revenge. That eased the tension on skipper Joe Root’s face.

Once Rahul fell, England wrapped up the innings quickly with the second new ball. But for India, it was about a fresh start in the series demise.

READ: Rishabh Pant slams maiden ton, creates history at Oval

The 26-year-old Rahul hit his first century since his 199 against England in Chennai in December, 2016. His career took a dip since his shoulder surgery after the 2017 home series win over Australia, where he piled on fifties and was India’s most influential batsmen.

Rahul’s poor run in South Africa in January and failure to get a fifty until Tuesday was a worry as India travel to Australia next. He had struggled with in-coming deliveries, but was positive in the first innings and was again calm, knowing he can play his shots on a good pitch.

Both laid into Stokes. Rahul’s best was a flat six over cover, and a four past mid-off to get to his century. Pant got it Virender Sehwag style, lofting Rashid for two sixes, which brought the crowd to its feet.

From three down for two, and 121/5 after Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari fell, dragging it into an equal contest, it would feel nice despite the 1-4 series loss.