What Ollie Pope, Tom Hartley's Heartening Brilliance Says About India?

image-ls0b7r9fEngland team (X.com)

India entered the opening Test of what’s to be a long series with one intent and one alone. And it was to defy the ‘Bazball’ philosophy. On the other hand, England, perhaps aware that their unyielding, always-on-the-frontfoot style of play with nothing held back wasn’t going to be the only trick, brought forth something more. 

It seemed that they were ready to grind it out and as one saw, they actually did. Hence, it was England’s ‘Grind-ball’ that usurped a mighty opponent and that too, on the latter’s own turf. Not that India didn’t put the right foot forward. 

When India dominated the recent test, well, bits of it!

There was valiance from the part of Jadeja and Bharat. KL Rahul put some runs under his belt. It seemed on a track where Gill and Rohit, as has been the case of lately, weren’t about to amount to much, the Rahul with the bat had the answer, even as the Rahul in the drawing board, the thinking area watched on nervously. 

Take nothing away from the initial first inning effort of the Indian bowlers; Jasprit Bumrah had his say. He would ensure courtesy a 2 for 28 that spinners alone weren’t in it. That’s even as Ashwin and Jadeja joined by Patel dislodged England pretty much at the back of their spin troika. 

England’s 246 especially in front of India’s 420 where nearly everyone chipped in with the runs albeit without that single damaging big knock, looked dainty. Did it not? However, for years to come, India’s harrowing loss and it’s a harrowing one at that, would be remembered as the defeat of a team focused too much on stopping the core philosophy of an opponent instead of getting under its skin. 

A strange result for India?

A lot can now be said with dust having settled on a Test match. But one was in the thick of the things, it was somewhere apparent that India’s nemesis, according to India themselves, were possibly Root and Stokes. In reality, however, England dug deep. India didn’t. England produced a showstopper in Ollie Pope, who prior to sending the hosts on a leather hunt, had just played 38 Tests- not more. 

image-ls0bh849Rohit Sharma (X.com)

The very evident, borderline chest thumping attitude and perhaps a bit of over-celebrating the English wickets of Stokes and Root, who made eight runs combined, saw India having a zilch idea of how to tackle the real thorn in their path. 

Pope’s papacy with the bat

It was, as one found out, before Tom Hartley spun away his magic to break the back of Indian batters, the underrated Ollie Pope. Which is both silly and surprising on India’s part really. For just about two Tests ago, Pope had fired away a 205 against an equally unsuspecting Ireland. It wasn’t just a century; it was a daddy hundred and that too, the spiritual heart of the game: Lord’s. 

One wonders if the bandwagon of scintillating and unquestionably talented Indian bowlers would have ever sat together to take notes from Pope’s footage in England? The controlled stroke play, the very balanced footwork, his handling of medium pace and a renowned spinner in Andy McBrine could have sent a clear indication that England’s brand of Bazball wasn’t restricted to their mighty maulers alone. 

Ollie Pope’s 196 on a turning wicket that kept the ball low on more occasions than one would have ideally liked is akin to a 250 plus score on a bouncy wicket assisting pace. It was that good effort. A knock of the highest quality that may perhaps have found a fan or two in Root and Stokes who knows? 

Spin heroes done in by spin itself

On the other hand, India’s vapid defeat- how else would you describe it- had an undertone of embarrassment to it, unless you live under a rock. The heroes of spin, those who play it much better than most full-time ICC members saw themselves scrambling under a web of spin spun avidly by newcomer Tom Hartley. 

While there are multiple ways of describing India being in shambles in their second inning, perhaps none better than calling it a trial by spin perpetrated by someone who hardly knew the conditions well. The number of times Tom Hartley, seven wickets to his name, has played in the Indian sub-continent is equivalent to the number of times a fish has climbed a banyan tree. 

Young English heroes emerge

In what could have already set a perfect tone to the ongoing series, where India’s hyped match winners got a taste of their own medicine by the inexperienced albeit promising Englishmen, the series beckons for a massive fightback. 

image-ls0bomnvOllie Pope (X.com)

Yes, the tracks will turn. Yes, more wickets will likely fall to spin and deception and guile than to say bouncers and vicious spells of pace bowling. The Bumrah’s and Wood’s will have their say as will Rohit, Gill, Stokes and Root, hopefully. 

The biggest learning for India for what lies ahead would not be to repeat the mistake of thinking it’s all over with Root and Stokes’ dismissal. Or, that all’s fine as long as Anderson isn’t playing! For you never know what the tide could bring. It’s not always smooth sailing in a game of utter unpredictability, you know.