Dominant India cover all bases with emphatic Trent Bridge triumph
Virat Kohli's spririted Indian team lived up to its No. 1 Test ranking (Getty Images)

India v Australia, First Test, Melbourne, 2007: India have been comprehensively beaten at the Gabba. 337 runs to be exact. India’s total in both innings: 196 and 161. 0-1 in the series. The lone Indian half-century has been scored by Sachin Tendulkar. Barring him, there are only three notable 40-plus scores.

Second Test, Sydney: India fight back, securing a 69-run first-innings lead over Australia with centuries from Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. Anil Kumble looks set to lead India to a famous win. But controversial umpiring in the fourth innings defile their efforts. In the end, India’s performance is forgotten. Monkey gate is all the Test ends up being known for.

Then comes Perth. WACA. Then considered the bounciest wicket all around the world. A nightmare for batsmen. What happens there? Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid raise half centuries, and on the back of an admirable left-arm seam bowling attack from RP Singh and Irfan Pathan, India defy odds and go on to win the match.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

10 years later, India are producing a familiar narrative. They had a chance to take an early lead in the first Test at Edgbaston, but the batting wasn’t up to the mark, resulting in a close 31-run loss. Lord’s was abject. The conditions were challenging, yes, but the way their batting surrendered made it hard to be believe that this is a side that for years has been gloating about its batting might. Opinions are formed, players’ calibres questioned, all-out changes demanded. Most importantly, the series is already considered lost with England being awarded the prospect of a 5-0 whitewash.

Then comes Trent Bridge, and there is something different from the first session itself. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul are watchfully, and importantly, leaving deliveries outside off. A few nervy moments by James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but no damage done. Before you know, Rahul’s drives are finding the middle of the bat instead of kissing its bottom edge, and Dhawan’s flamboyant drives and cuts are restricted. They do come out eventually, but by then the conditions have eased out. Threat still looms. Not as much as Lord’s. The ball is still moving, but the openers grind it out to bring up India’s best opening stand outside the sub-continent and West Indies since 2013. At last, Indian batting had found some solidarity.

The promising opening stand was just the beginning of what would turn out to be one of India’s most engaging Test matches. This Indian side was out there not just living up to their No. 1 status but looked fiercely determined to defend it, the way a champion team does… turning things around on the back of a splendid all-round performance.

Reasons? Plenty. For a team to have won by 203 runs, they needed to be on top since Day 1. Which they did, almost by bossing the opponent, playing out sessions cautiously, and winning them rather comfortably. India, on the receiving end of batting collapses, for a change, dealt one.

Hardik Pandya didn’t take out any piece of paper from his pocket that said, “Yeah Michael! TALK NAH” after recording his maiden five-wicket haul, quite easily the turning point of the match. Instead, he plays quietly played down his comparison with Kapil Dev, asking people to let him remain HARDIK PANDYA. This time, there were no clamours of his ineffectiveness. Absolutely nothing from Holding or Harbhajan Singh, or Sunil Gavaskar as Pandya caused an England collapse that saw them go from 54/0 to 161 all out.

Pandya wasn’t done there. He went on to score another half-century. It was almost like India’s biggest weak link had become their strongest. Virat Kohli has been a firm believer of Pandya’s abilities, and it was evident that he continues to push his premier allrounder in situations where the decisive call is his and not Kohli’s. Pandya’s five-wicket burst was another glowing example of Indian bowling coming a long way. During the summer of 2014, where 20 taking wickets in a match seemed a herculean task, today they are doing it almost every overseas game.

The bowling showed hunger. Jasprit Bumrah‘s return proved to be a shot in the arm for India. Sheer raw pace mixed with accuracy. It’s almost like in Bumrah, India may have found a genuine pacer who can bowl long spells and hit the accurate lengths. This does not take away any credit from Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. A large chunk of Bumrah’s success belongs to the two. Ishant, no longer an ‘experienced rookie’, has comfortably settled in his role of the leader of the attack. He has looked deadly bowling while bowling around the wicket to the left-handers. Shami, as it’s always said, looks a real threat when injury free. Here, he was constantly clocking over 140 and more. When was the last time you heard three Indian pacers bowling fast at once?

The biggest area where India have improved drastically is their slip catching. One of their weaker traits of late, from 2013 end to the beginning of the South Africa tour earlier this year, India had grassed 45 chances in the slips. That’s right. In the first Test of the series itself, India dropped three. But here, they held on to 15 behind the stumps with Test debutant Rishabh Pant recording seven catches. KL Rahul at second slip also pouched seven at second slip in the match. And that Kohli catch to send back Ollie Pope was almost as if he was trying to offer Rahul’s palms some relief.

That catch surely wasn’t Kohli’s first impression on the game. He scored 200 in Edgbaston. Two Tests later, he did it again at Trent Bridge, absorbing a testing period on Day 1 from Anderson. In the second innings, Kohli looked even more fiercely dedicated. Restricted in his stroke play, he ensured that India got the caution of a sizeable lead. Once that was achieved, out came the shots. 440 runs and counting. Kohli of 2014, who?

Alert to the possibility of another implosion lurking, Kohli gave himself time, in both innings, something that indirectly acted as a catalyst – first for Ajinkya Rahane and later Cheteshwar Pujara. To end the sorry plight of Indian batsmen, they needed to look up to none other than their captain. Once that happened, they grew in confidence. Rahane’s 81 and Pujara’s 72 were monumental, for it gave other batsmen the assurance they needed.

At Trent Bridge, India bested England by a long shot. The win is one to savour, one that will go down in history as one of their most cherished victories. Only Don Bradman’s Australia has done the unthinkable on England: lift themselves from the deficit of 0-2 and win the series 3-2. While that may require some doing, on India’s current form, its possibility can’t be ruled out. England have been average at home, losing more home Tests than any other team. With the big guns not firing, and the Indian batting finally arriving to the fore, it is a fantasy India will be eager to turn into a reality.