Considering that the 15th August is Indian Independence Day, then if ever there was a time for India to turn this series around, it was today.
Unfortunately for their fans, the players’ efforts to honour the auspicious occasion could scarcely have gone any worse – their entire top order deciding to join their countrymen back home in taking a national holiday.
If there was a sense that India had india begun to lose the plot after comprehensive defeats in Southampton and Manchester, then the selection of Stuart Binny for this Test did nothing to dispel it.
His fans, if that is not a misuse of the word, point to the fact that India are yet to lose a Test in which Binny has played, leading one to draw the conclusion that his selection was primarily to fulfil the role of lucky mascot.
Whether Binny has no more luck to rub off or whether MS Dhoni has been spending his days off smashing up mirror shops, before 40 overs had even be played it seemed perfectly clear that the fates were not on the side of the tourists.
Not that this performance can be in anyway attributed to bad luck, rather a ruthless bowling performance, albeit in very favourable conditions, from an England attack that never gave their opponents the slightest whiff of an opportunity.
This is the first time that any of this Indian side have ever played in a five Test series and as they played the first day of this final match it certainly showed.
In unfamiliar conditions, India’s top order have been worked out by England’s bowlers and the results could scarcely be more obvious if their recent humiliating scorecards were written in giant lettering.
It was a day when a persistent pigeon literally spent more time on The Oval square than Gautam Gambhir – the slightly surprisingly recalled opening batsman registering a golden duck that leaves his series average in single figures and his Test match career all but over.
This was supposed to be the series when India’s young guns showed that they had broken free of the shackles of the previous generation and announced themselves on the world stage.
Instead Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli have made a combined 325 runs in their 18 innings, averaging 23.44 and 12.66 respectively – still someway to go then if they are to get close to being the new Dravid and Tendulkar.
However this was not a day simply of Indian ineptitude, but rather a day when England’s support bowlers truly joined in the party.
Much has been made of the home side’s over-reliance on James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but England’s success on day one truly came thanks to Chris’s Jordan and Woakes, who not so much walked through the door opened by their more illustrious bowling partners as blew it off its hinges.
They finished with three wickets each, a reward for unluckier spells earlier in the series, and a promising sign for England’s ‘new era’.
In the end it was only another tenth-wicket partnership and a bloody-minded, if not totally convincing, captain’s knock from Dhoni that saved India from total embarrassment.
However even after only one day it seems they’ll need a combination of bad weather and every single one of Stuart Binny’s four-leaf clover collection if they are to get anything from this match.Reuse content