I wasn’t able to write up this match on a daily basis and have been torn over how to do this Final Test justice. For my own ‘records’ I’m going to go day by day so I can post photos from each of the 5 days.
i decided last summer that it was cheaper and more convenient to stay close to the ground rather than travel up every day from home. My plans for The Oval didn’t work out, I booked a cheap Airbnb and this was definitely a case of ‘you get what you pay for’! It wasn’t for me, so I stayed for just one night then decamped to my brother’s house near Reigate, which gave me some interesting journeys, more of that on Day 4.
This test match was to be Alastair Cook’s final test, would it be one with a fairytale ending? He opened the batting with Keaton Jennings, it hadn’t been a good summer for either man, Jennings had an average of 18.57 for the series and Cook 15.57.
India had made 2 changes to their team, Jadeja was finally in the starting XI, replacing Ashwin, having spent most of the other 4 tests in the field, and Hanuma Vihari, an all rounder I was unaware of replaced Hardik Pandya. Joe Root won the toss, for the 5th time in this 5 match series and elected to bat, Virat Kohli looked unconcerned as he walked back to the dressing rooms.
I’ll set my stall out here before I go too much further, I’m an Essex member and an Essex fan, I’ve been lucky enough to meet Alastair on several occasions, I’m a fan, so was thrilled by the reception he got over and over again at The Oval. I’d been at the ground when Michael Clarke played his final international game at it was very touching. I confess seeing Alastair walk through India’s guard of honour, brought tears to my eyes. Virat Kohli and his team must take huge credit for their part in his final celebration.
I’m sure you’ll understand if there are lots of photos of Alastair in my pieces about this match.
The Indian bowlers have been quite exceptional with this Duke ball in our English conditions, at times their seamers have shown the English seamers how to do it. Jennings again, didn’t look comfortable, he batted for over an hour and a half and was pushing his luck when he edged a ball from Jadeja to Rahul. He was out for 23 and England were 60 for 1.
Moeen Ali came in at 3, if there was ever a stat needed I’d love to know how many balls from Mohammed Shami passed his bat as he wafted at them, it was really quite remarkable. Shami bowled some outstanding balls through the whole innings but failed to take a single wicket, he deserved to take a hatful.
In spite of playing with fire Moeen and Cook took England to 133, the fairytale wasn’t going to happen on Day 1 however as Cook was bowled by Jasprit Burma on 71, the disappointment around the ground was almost palpable. But, Cook had received a standing ovation each time he entered and left the field as well as for his 50, the love was certainly being shown.
Reaching 133 for 2 was unusual for England for this series, what happened next wasn’t. Both Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were out for a Duck, after facing just 3 and 4 balls respectively. Root was trapped Lbw by Burma and Bairstow caught by Pant from the bowling of Sharma. The Root wicket was so quick, I totally missed it photo wise! England were 134 for 4.
Ben Stokes came in next and he too didn’t last long, he has learnt patience this summer but hasn’t really fired with the bat, he batted for nearly an hour, making 11 runs from the 40 balls he faced, before being trapped LBW by Jadeja. England’s so called middle order, not that Root’s that. wasn’t contributing much, England had gone from 133 for 2 to 171 for 5.
Jos Buttler joined Moeen who’d been ticking along to reach his 50, he’d had his share of luck especially against the bowling of Shami but he did finally edge a ball from Ishant Sharma to Pant and was out for that 50. England were now 177 for 6.
Sam Curran joined Buttler, he’d had a wonderful series so far, but the dream wasn’t to be at his home ground he was out for a Duck, caught by Pant from the bowling of Sharma, the disappointed sigh in the pavilion could be clearly heard. Again this was a wicket I didn’t capture.
To help make this a perfect test for Alastair Cook more runs were needed for England. Jos Buttler has proved his credentials as a superb batsman no matter what the colour of the ball, Buttler was given out caught, he reviewed and was successful so that was a big sigh of relief! Rashid had joined Buttler and they took the score to 198 for 7 at teh end of the day.
I can’t finish without mentioning one of the highlights of the day, Shikhar Dhawan was fielding out on the boundary near a box group of India fans, they were playing banghra music and he started to dance! It was brilliant! I’m not too sure his captain thought as much though.