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Sam Curran got the wicket of Virat Kohli.jpg

England v India 2018 – a lookback

Eng v Ind, series review

The defining moments and performances from England’s 4-1 Test series victory over India.

Best innings – Virat Kohli, 149, Edgbaston

The India captain came into the first Test with everyone speaking of 2014, when Kohli managed just 134 runs in five Tests. The pressure increased as his team-mates floundered, and Kohli responded with an innings of grit, restraint, a bit of luck, and most of all, class. He rescued India from 100/5, and helped them post 274, cutting the first-innings deficit to just 13 runs.

Virat Kohli hit 149 against England in a stunning one-man show at Edgbaston
Virat Kohli hit 149 against England in a stunning one-man show at Edgbaston

His battle with James Anderson was one for the ages, particularly an early 43-ball spell in which Kohli scored just six runs. It wasn’t pretty by any means, as far Indian fans were concerned. As much as Kohli tried, Anderson drew closer and closer to his outside-edge, and eventually, nicked it. Four times. Two of them were chances. Unfortunately for Anderson, Alastair Cook and Dawid Malan spilled them. Kohli survived.

He went on to score more in one innings than he had in 10 in 2014. And he wouldn’t allow Anderson the satisfaction of getting his wicket for the rest of the summer.

Best spell – James Anderson, 5/20, Lord’s

In a contest where ball dominated bat throughout, there were plenty of candidates. Ravichandran Ashwin showed he could do it outside Asia on day one of the first Test, Sam Curran ripped the heart out of India on the second as Anderson went past Kohli’s bat again and again, Ishant Sharma took three wickets in an over on the third day before the lion-hearted Ben Stokes wrestled England to victory on the fourth. And that was just the first Test.

James Anderson claimed the 26th five-wicket haul of his career
James Anderson claimed the 26th five-wicket haul of his career

Elsewhere, there was Hardik Pandya’s five-for which got India back into it at Trent Bridge, and Moeen Ali’s nine-for which finished India off in Southampton, while Stuart Broad’s bee-stung barnstormer to win the Lord’s Test deserves a mention. But the pinnacle of it all was James Anderson on the first day at Lord’s. Yes, the conditions suited him, and no he didn’t get Kohli’s wicket. But there can have been few more masterful performances, few so controlled yet so utterly devastating.

His final figures read 5/20, and he added 4/23 in the second innings. “I think that if we bowled like that today, with those conditions, we'd bowl most teams in the world out – because I think we were that good," he said at the close of play. By series end, he was out in front as the seamer with the most Test wickets, having overtaken Glenn McGrath with its final delivery.

Best catch – KL Rahul off Joe Root, Trent Bridge

In a series in which plenty of catches were dropped in the slip cordon, by either side, Rahul’s effort in the second innings at Trent Bridge stood out. It was the third Test, and India desperately needed to win it to stay alive.

KL Rahul completed plenty of excellent catches
KL Rahul completed plenty of excellent catches

For once, their slip catching complimented their pace attack, no more evident than when Root slashed hard at one off Jasprit Bumrah. It was going at considerable speed, and had almost gone past Rahul at second slip. But he was watching it all the way, and he thrust his hands out late, almost plucking it back from behind the body.

Root was dismissed off a controversial low catch by Rahul in the first innings. There were no doubts about this one.

Rising Star – Sam Curran

Make no mistake, Curran’s talent and technique are impressive. He can swing the ball a long way, doesn’t bowl too many bad balls, and looks capable enough with the bat to go in much higher than No.7 or No.8. But it’s also nowhere near the most impressive thing about him. What marks Curran out as something special, someone worth keeping tabs on, is his attitude and approach to Test cricket, recognising the grand stage, but rising to meet it rather than being overawed.

Sam Curran is now a cricketer to be reckoned with
Sam Curran is now a cricketer to be reckoned with

So far, he hasn’t been fazed by anything. Not by his team being 80-odd for seven, which they were at Edgbaston and Southampton before he made a decisive impact. Not by bowling against supposedly the best batting line-up in the world, as he was asked to on day two at Edgbaston – India were 50/0 and soon 59/3 as Curran removed Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan in the space of eight balls. And not by the rate with which he has taken to it, instead taking it all in his stride.

After winning his first Player of the Match award in Test cricket, he said he’d learnt from Kohli’s innings, and from Kumar Sangakkara’s words. He knows he still has things to learn and isn’t afraid to admit it. That more than anything designates him as someone who may one day count himself as more than just a devotee of Kohli and Sangakkara, but as their equal.

Turning Point – Curran swings it

England were 86/6 in their second innings at Edgbaston, in grave danger of giving India an all-too-easy chase and allowing the tourists to register a win to go 1-0 up in the series. But 20-year-old Curran batted with skill and boldness to shift the game back their way.

Sam Curran smashes Ashwin for his first six
Sam Curran smashes Ashwin for his first six

Batting at No.8 with the tail, he showed controlled aggression to reach a maiden Test fifty with a six over extra cover, before ending with 63 to get his team up to 180, and an eventually match-winning lead of 193. 

Spirit of Cricket – Handshakes all round

It was a highly competitive but decent-natured – not to mention very entertaining – series. And no moment better encapsulated the spirit of cricket than when India’s fielders – to a man – shook the hands of Alastair Cook on his way off the field for the final time, having made a characteristic 147.

Cook receives handshakes
Cook receives handshakes

Kohli’s side extended a guard of honour to the former England captain on day one, and continued to show their immense respect for a high-achieving fellow professional throughout the game.

Lighter moment – Shikhar Dhawan does the bhangra

The final Test at The Oval may not have gone too well for India – it was Alastair Cook’s swansong, and India were obliging visitors – but Dhawan was stationed in front of the Bharat Army, he heard the dhol being played, and just couldn’t stop jigging. He was soon shifted elsewhere.

Player of the Series (India) – Virat Kohli

No doubt about it. The standout batsman in the series with 593 runs in five matches – despite getting out for a rare nought in his final innings – at an average of 59.30. There were two centuries, and there might have been one more had he not been dismissed for 97 at Trent Bridge. There were three half-centuries as well.

Virat Kohli made two centuries in the series
Virat Kohli made two centuries in the series

He was India’s batting mainstay, he justified his MRF Tyres No.1 ranking among Test batsmen, and had his team-mates been able to support him more often than not, the series might have had a different ending than 4-1.

Player of the Series (England) – Sam Curran

As he so often does, Kohli said it best: “There’s a reason why we voted for Sam as the [Player] of the Series. Coming in at that stage in the batting order, he’s made very important contributions. If you look at the significance of the Test matches, the first one is massive, and after it being 2-1 the fourth one is massive.

Curran made two half-centuries, both of which were absolutely vital
Curran made two half-centuries, both of which were absolutely vital

"And he made plays in both those games. It takes character for someone to come in and play like that. He put England in front in both those important Test matches. It’s something that we can learn from as well, guys coming in, being fearless, taking on the situation head on but being smart about it, is something that we need to learn and apply.”

Whenever England needed him, with bat or ball, Curran stood up, and it’s no coincidence the one Test they lost was the one he didn’t play. He started the series talking about learning from Kohli, and ended it with Kohli saying India could learn from him.

Best quote

“Nah, I’m not ruining my average” – Alastair Cook, when asked if he would have a bowl on his final day as a Test cricketer. Cook averages seven with the ball, thanks to his dismissal of Ishant Sharma in Nottingham in 2014.

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