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14.09.2018  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

The scoreline of 4-1 in favour of England doesn't reflect the true efforts of the Indian players in the England series.

To understand the positive aspects of India's performance, one should first take into consideration the unfavorable elements that India came up against in the entire series to end up with such a decent performance. A few of them are listed below:

Virat Kohli's poor run with the toss continued all through the series. The last time that Kohli won a toss in the series was on July 12th and for the next two months, it was Joe Root all the way.

As a result, India had to play the catch-up game from the very beginning. Joe Root was generous in the third Test in asking India to bat first. India ended up winning that match by 200 runs.

India started the series without the services of two of their best bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.

They both would have been more than a handful in the second Test at Lord's. As it turned out, Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed the entire series due to injury. The Indians also missed Kumar's contribution with the bat lower down the order. Ashwin was not at his best as a bowler owing to a niggle.

The contrasting weather conditions on different days of play didn't help India's cause either. At Lord's when the Indians were batting the conditions were overcast and gloomy. When England came into bat, the sun was out in its full glory. To complicate matters further, India's team selection was erratic.

India's performance has to be assessed in the light of the above unfavorable factors. The Positives derived out of this defeat was to India's credit they were able to overcome the difficulties to put up a fight till the last day of the series.

Despite the humiliating defeats, some Indian players, with their individual performances, managed to salvage some pride

This article is about the positives that have come out of the England series in spite of the heavy defeat.

1. The Three Fast Bowlers

The three fast bowlers, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami bowled their heart out in the entire series.

They bowled without much luck as they kept on beating the bat without taking the edge. It was because of the performances of the fast bowlers that India could fight till the very last day of the series.

Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami played in all the back-to-back five Test matches.

Ishant was the leading wicket-taker for India with 18 wickets followed by Mohammed Shami with 16 wickets. Bumrah played only in the last three Test matches and took 12 wickets.

More than the number of wickets, it was the tireless efforts of the fast bowlers which stood out. The fast bowlers combined together managed to take all the 20 England wickets in the first, third and fourth Test matches of the series.

The fast bowlers showed a lot of character and Shami was all smiles even when the ball failed to take the edge on innumerable occasions. He was the unlucky bowler of the lot.

Ishant, bowling from round the wicket, was a nightmare to the left-handed England openers all through the series. For the first time in his career, Ishant Sharma took the responsibility of the leader of the pack seriously and guided both Shami and Bumrah to perform better.

Bumrah bowled exceptionally well with the new ball. His spell with the second new ball in the second innings of the third Test was memorable. He took 5 for 85 to accomplish the only win for India at Nottingham.

The only area where the fast bowlers failed to deliver was in wrapping up the England tail quickly which proved to be the difference in the series.

2. King Kohli's stupendous performance

King Kohli showed once again to the entire world why he is rated the best batsman in the world.

The talk before the five-match Test series started was how Virat Kohli would fare after a disappointing tour in 2014 where he averaged just 13 in five Tests. Before a ball was even bowled, plenty of focus was on Virat Kohli's battle with James Anderson who dismissed him four times in that 2014 series.

Kohli made an instant impact in the very first innings of the series when he scored 149 runs off 225 deliveries.

He followed it up with a half-century in the second innings. It seemed Virat Kohli had learned from the mistakes of 2014. He got big strides forward to counter the swing of the England bowlers.

The Lord's Test was a disaster for the entire team including Kohli. Then came the Third Test at Nottingham where he scored 97 and 103. He had century partnerships with Rahane in the first innings and with Pujara in the second innings. Due to Kohli's best efforts, India won the third Test and stayed alive in the series.

Kohli scored a total of 200 runs each in both the first and third Test matches of the series. His only failure came in the last innings of the series. To Kohli's credit, he never got out to Anderson in the entire series.

Kohli finished the series with 593 runs from 10 innings at an average of 59.30. More than the number of runs, it was his willingness to succeed in English conditions that stood out. It was a pity to note that Kohli's infectious intensity and passion didn't rub on to the other batsmen in the series.

3. The Three middle-order batsmen

The three middle-order batsmen complemented the three fast bowlers truly well. Kohli was the stand out batsman while Pujara and Rahane tried to replicate their skipper. Pujara showed his class when he scored an unbeaten 132 in the first innings of the fourth Test. In that innings, he displayed his attacking skills as a batsman while playing with the tailenders. The most striking aspect of Pujara's innings was that after a typical watchful start he looked to score runs at all times.

His crucial century partnership with Kohli in the second innings of the third Test took the game away from England. Pujara finished the series with 278 runs in 8 innings at an average of 40.

Rahane was not at his best in the entire series. However, his crucial century partnership in the first innings of the third Test with Kohli has saved India the blushes of a 5-0 whitewash.

Rahane's partnership with Kohli that saved the 5-0 whitewash

Rahane had a poor series and he finished the series with 257 runs in 10 innings.

The combined efforts of the Indian middle-order should be lauded.

4. Other flashes of brilliance

Apart from the team efforts, the Indians have had their moments through individual brilliance which is narrated below:

a) Ashwin's seven-wicket haul in the first Test match
Ashwin took seven wickets in the first Test match. He was in fine form on the very first day of the series. He took 4 for 62 in the first innings and 3 for 59 in the second innings.

He took the all-important wickets of England top-order batsmen Alastair Cook, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Joe Root and Jennings. Sadly, he could not maintain his good form in the rest of the matches.

b) Hardik Pandya's five-wicket haul in the first innings of the third Test and 50 in the second innings of the third Test
At Trent Bridge, Hardik Pandya made his presence felt by removing the England Captain Joe Root with his very first delivery. Thereafter, it was easy going for him as he hit the road to take a five-wicket haul in 29 balls. This helped India to claim all the 10 wickets of England in one extended session of play.

In batting too, Pandya was not far behind when he scored a run-a-ball half-century in the second innings.

c) Ravindra Jadeja's performance of 86 not out and a seven-wicket haul for the match in the final Test.
Ravindra Jadeja came into the series only for the last Test match. In the first innings, he bowled exceptionally well to come up with figures of 4 for 79. His wickets include Jennings, Stokes and Buttler.

In reply to England's first innings score of 332 runs, India were in trouble at 160 for 6 when Jadeja joined the debutant Hanuma Vihari. These two put on 77 runs for the 7th wicket. Jadeja remained not out on 86 with the help of 11 fours and one six.

Jadeja proved to the Indian think-tank what they were missing in the first four Test matches of the series.

d) KL Rahul's career-saving innings of 149 in the second innings of the final Test
After repeated failures, Rahul finally came good in his 10th innings of the series when he scored a fabulous 149 runs with the help of 20 fours and one six.

In the Oval Test, chasing a target of 464, India were at one stage reduced to 2 for 3. That was when Rahul got going as he put on 118 runs with Ajinkya Rahane for the fourth wicket.

After that, Rahul put on 204 runs with Rishabh Pant for the 6th wicket. Rahul completed his century off 118 balls. As long as Rahul was at the wicket, the Indians had an outside chance of chasing down the target.

Rahul's welcome return to form augurs well for Team India.

e) Rishabh Pant's maiden Test century in the final Test
Rishabh Pant became the first Indian wicket-keeper to score a century in the fourth innings of a Test match

Rishabh Pant was under fire coming into the Oval Test match. His keeping was below par and his batting was T20 mode.

When Pant came out to bat in the second innings of the last Test, it was now or never for him. He started hitting the spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid out of the attack. He didn't spare the fast bowlers either as Stokes and Anderson were given the charge.

Pant was fearless in his approach. Pant completed his 50 off 78 balls. His second 50 came off just 39 balls. Pant reached his maiden Test century in style by hoisting Adil Rashid for a huge six.

Pant's century came off 117 balls with the help of 14 fours and 3 sixes. Pant became the first Indian wicket-keeper to score a century in the fourth innings of a Test match.

Out of all, the one performance that will forever be etched in memory will be King Kohli's domination of the England bowlers right through the summer closely followed by the lion-hearted efforts of the three fast bowlers.