London: Opener Lokesh Rahul and Rishabh Pant’s heroics went in vain as England defeated India by 118 runs in the fifth and final Test to clinch the series 4-1 at the Oval here on Tuesday. With India chasing a massive 463-run target, the last day of the series saw a bit of drama as centuries by Lokesh Rahul and Rishabh Pant gave India a slim hope of clinching, or at least saving, the Test.
Rahul played a fighting knock of 149 runs before a spectacular delivery by England spinner Moeen Ali ended his resistance. Pant, who scored 114, gave him excellent support from the other end as the duo built up a partnership of 204 runs to frustrate the England bowlers for a long time.
However, their fall bought the hosts back in contest and the English bowlers then made no mistake as they performed the last rites with ease, scalping the remaining three Indian wickets of Ravindra Jadeja (13), Ishant Sharma (5) and Mohammed Shami (0) in quick succession.
For England, James Anderson picked up three wickets for 45 runs while Sam Curran and Adil Rashid bagged two wickets each. It was a memorable day for Anderson as the England pacer’s second innings figures of 4/63 saw him go past Australian legend Glenn McGrath to take the fourth spot on the list of all-time highest Test wicket takers.
Anderson, who now has 564 Test wickets to his name, is leading McGrath by one wicket. He is preceded on the list by Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble. After losing the first two Tests at Edgbaston and Lord’s, the visitors managed to win the third Test in Tentbridge. However, they went down in the remaining two contests to complete a miserable series which was totally dominated by the hosts.
India had last won a series on English soil way back in 2007 when the Rahul Dravid-led side had managed a 1-0 win over the hosts in a three-Test affair. India had started the fifth Test on a promising note as they had reduced England to 181/7 in their first innings on the opening day before the hosts recovered to post a healthy 332.
India had managed to post 292 runs in their first innings before England piled up a mammoth 423/8 to hand India a challenging target. On Tuesday, the final day of the fifth Test, India started the proceedings at 58/3. Overnight batsmen Ajinkya Rahane (37 off 106 balls) and Rahul showed tremendous resistance against the English bowlers by taking India past the 100-run mark.
However, just when everything was going India’s way, Moeen Ali struck to send back Rahane as an across the line sweep by the batsman fell into the hands of Keaton Jennings in front of square, which left the visitors at 120/4. Debutant Hanuma Vihari, who had notched up his maiden half-century in the first innings, fell cheaply after contributing just one run.
A short-pitch delivery by Ben Stokes kissed Vihari’s outside edge before landing in the gloves of Jonny Bairstow, putting India in deep trouble. Later, incoming batsman Pant along with Rahul prevented the English bowlers from making any further inroads into the Indian camp, after the hosts had jolted them with two quick wickets in the morning session.
It was the duo’s fearless batting which helped India go close to the 300-run mark without losing any further wicket. A brilliant fightback by Rahul and Pant kept England at bay as India reached 298/5 at tea. At the break, Rahul was batting on 142, while Pant, who was on 101, gave him excellent support from the other end.
The duo’s sixth wicket partnership of 177 runs not only kept the English bowlers struggling, but also gave India a slim hope of clinching the Test as the visitors now needed 166 runs in the final session, which made the contest interesting. This was the fifth century of Rahul’s Test career. The opener, who hit 19 boundaries and a six off the 216 balls he has faced so far, was the epitome of patience and grit during India’s second innings.
Pant, meanwhile, slammed his first Test ton after facing 117 balls and slamming 14 fours and three sixes over the course of his knock. In the 74th over, the Delhi batsman slog-swept a Moeen Ali delivery over deep mid-on to become the first-ever Indian wicket-keeper to score a Test century in England.
The scenario, however, changed in the final session when Rashid’s magical delivery came from the leg-stump to dislodge Rahul’s off-stump, breaking the 204-run partnership and leaving India at 325/6. With the addition of just three runs in the visitor’s scorecard, Rashid struck again, this time to send back the other settled batsman — Pant. The Indian stumper while looking for a quick run handed an easy catch to Ali at the long-off.
Curran then gave two back-to-back blows to India, dismissing Ishant and Jadeja, while Anderson packed Shami back to finally crush the visitors’ 11 long years’ dream of winning a Test series in England. Brief scores: England: 332 & 423/8 declared vs India: 292 & 345 (Lokesh Rahul 149, Rishabh Pant 114; James Anderson 3/45).