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Ollie Robinson: England's fresh pace face, seasoned approach

He stepped up in a team missing Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, claiming five second-innings wickets to be named Man-of-the-Match
England's Ollie Robinson holds a stump as he walks off the field after their win on the fourth day of third test cricket match between England and India, at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)(AP)
Published on Aug 29, 2021 12:06 AM IST

Ollie Robinson was one of the first in the English huddle to console James Anderson with an arm around his shoulder after the Decision Review System gave Virat Kohli a second life on Saturday. This was in the 87th over of India’s defiant second innings in Leeds when even Kohli believed that Anderson had nicked him out—India’s captain going as far as taking a few paces in the direction of the dressing room before deciding to review the iffy edge. Soon Kohli smiled, Anderson scowled and Robinson shrugged. Now was his time to shoulder the burden, just as he had all summer in the absence of many a key English bowler.

At the top of his bowling mark, Robinson had reason to believe he was the man for the job. Already this morning he had ended Cheteshwar Pujara’s long vigil, India’s No.3 trapped LBW without offering a shot and without adding to his overnight score of 91. Kohli had done marginally better, moving from 45 to 47 (two runs from the 25 balls he had faced on Day 4), when Robinson ran in to bowl the 90th over. And it didn’t start too well for the tall pacer.

The first ball was over pitched, which Kohli whipped to the midwicket boundary to bring up his first fifty of this series. The next Kohli boundary of the over, from the penultimate delivery, was also scored off a full ball—this time driven past the furious bowler. So, Robinson pulled his length back marginally and hung his release outside off-stump—where Kohli likes it least in England.

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The resultant edge caused only the fourth Indian wicket of the innings to fall, but Robinson celebrated like the resistance had finally ended. It had, for the remaining six Indian wickets would fall within the hour. Robinson would add to his innings tally of India’s Big Three—Rohit Sharma was the other on Day 3—by dismissing Rishabh Pant and Ishant Sharma; the last of those took him to his maiden five-wicket haul, the sharpest peak in a three-month-old Test career that has already seen him scalp 23 wickets at an astonishing average of 17.65.

The icing was perhaps the wicket of Kohli, who Robinson has now dismissed twice this series. What’s the plan to the Indian captain, he was asked after receiving the Man-of-the-Match award. “It’s a simple plan to Virat,” said Robinson without having to think further. “Fourth and fifth stump, get it to angle away, and hope he nicks it. It came off today.” Saying exactly what’s on his mind will be seen as candor in this case, but it has got him into serious trouble in the past.

Immediately after his Lord’s debut against New Zealand in June, where too had boasted of a match-haul of seven wickets, Robinson was banned by ECB for tweets that he had posted as a teenager; tweets that were later deemed “racist, sexist, disablist, Islamophobic and offensive” by the board’s disciplinary committee. But an “unreserved apology” led to a near-immediate return to the Test side in time for the India series, especially given how integral he is to an England attack missing several heavyweights.

In fact, India’s rained-out chase of the Nottingham Test is the only innings in which Robinson hasn’t taken a wicket so far in his short but sparkling long-format career. In every other bowling essay—seven of them to be precise—the 27-year-old Robinson has taken a minimum of two wickets. With such consistency, it comes as little surprise that England have managed to carry right on without Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes this summer; or even the recently injured duo of Stuart Broad and Mark Wood in this match.

“He’s been exceptional throughout this whole summer, really,” gushed captain Joe Root after Robinson had fast leveled the series 1-1. “To ask good questions of their (India’s) defence on the regular and to get the ball moving throughout the whole innings—not just with the new ball but to back it up again with the old one—has been fantastic to watch. And long may that continue.”

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