Heading into day five at Lord’s, all anyone could talk about was India’s batsmen. What Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane had done the previous day, and what Rishabh Pant could do on the final day. Had the middle order done enough? Could Pant bat India to safety?
However, in what turned out to be an unforgettable day in Indian cricket history, it was the bowlers in the team who owned the stage. First with the bat and then with the ball, it was Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Ishant Sharma who came together to deliver a result that not many dared to consider at the start of day five – an Indian victory.
The spark for India’s extraordinary revival was ignited between the 92nd and 93rd overs of their second innings. The day began with India having four wickets in hand and a lead of 154 runs. An England win or a draw were the only realistic results on the table. And all eyes were on Pant to see if he could somehow swell India’s lead beyond 200.
In what was a body blow to India, though, Pant was removed by Ollie Robinson in the fourth over of the day. Four overs later, Ishant was sent packing too. India led by 182 runs at that point and were left with Shami and Bumrah at the crease. Defeat was staring them in the face. But then came that 93rd over.
For context, we will need to take a quick look back at the third-last over on day three. Bumrah had bowled 10 deliveries to James Anderson in that over, because of four no balls, and six of them were bouncers. One hit Anderson on the helmet, one on the rib cage, and three on his gloves. It was no holds barred aggression from Bumrah and Anderson was hardly impressed, with the senior England pacer even giving a piece of his mind to Bumrah as he walked off at the end of day’s play.
Now, before the start of the 93rd over in India’s second innings, Mark Wood – the fastest bowler on display in the match – had some words for Bumrah. Perhaps a warning for what was to follow. And this time it was the Indian who was left fuming and ended up having a heated exchange with wicketkeeper Jos Butler. Virat Kohli, of course, was angry as well and busy doing his thing at the balcony. And this marked the beginning of an unbeaten partnership that absolutely no one saw coming.
Wood started the next over with a least unexpected short ball, Bumrah swung hard and managed to get it past point for four. Three balls later, though, Wood bent his back even harder and struck the side of Bumrah’s helmet. The heat was well and truly on. But Bumrah and Shami were up for the challenge.
From that point on, the two right-handers ended up playing the knock of their lives. All the tension between the two teams had helped them zone in. They weren’t throwing the kitchen sink and were ready to battle it out. They were getting behind the line of the ball and finding gaps to rotate strike. Shami was playing defensive strokes that would’ve made Pujara proud, Bumrah was hitting straight drives so perfect they were crashing into the stumps at the other end. Indian fans must’ve thought they’re in dreamland, but it was all happening for real.
It felt they had done enough when they took the lead past 200, but they batted on. The lead went past 220, and they batted on. Past 250, and they batted on. They batted and batted and batted till the only result that was off the table was an England victory. Joe Root’s oddly defensive tactics proved helpful along the way, but the effort put in by Shami (56* off 70) and Bumrah (34* off 64) remained heroic.
India declared with a lead of 271 runs. This would’ve felt impossible to achieve when Pant was dismissed at the start of the day. But the Indian team’s bowlers weren’t done yet. This was just the halfway mark of the epic script they had in store.
Kohli and Co had 60 overs to bowl England out. The India captain’s declaration raised questions, as England were made to bowl an over and a half after lunch. But the move worked as the quick turnaround between innings seemed to unsettle England’s openers. Both Rory Burns and Dom Bibley got ducks, with Bumrah and Shami returning to take the new ball and striking in their first overs.
Then came Ishant’s turn to have his say in the contest. He was the last of the five bowlers to join the attack but among the first spells delivered by the Indians, his was perhaps the most impressive. Unlike the others, he didn’t seem overcome by emotions and his immense experience came through as he stuck to a tight line.
In his very first over, he broke what proved to be the biggest partnership of the innings by removing Haseeb Hameed. It was a wonderful delivery that nipped back in and caught the right-hander in front. And then in his fourth over, with the last ball before tea, Ishant landed another heavy blow. Jonny Bairstow, the most impressive England batsman in the series after Root, got out LBW to a similar in-cutter and all of a sudden, the hosts were in big trouble and India could sense a win. The 32-year-old pacer would go on to finish with splendid figures of 2/13 from 10 overs.
But in their astonishing pursuit of victory, India still had the biggest hurdle to overcome – Joe Root. The England captain was unbeaten on 180 in the first innings and looked solid from the start again. India needed something special... a moment of inspiration to get the better of him.
And they got that with the third ball after tea, from none other than Bumrah. He got the ball to angle in and straighten just a little bit to get the outside edge, and Kohli made sure he hung on to the catch in the slips. It was a dismissal that triggered wild celebrations among the Indians. They knew what it meant, as did everyone watching.
India faced a jittery phase thereafter. Kohli dropped a regulation catch at first slip to give Buttler a life. Ravindra Jadeja had Moeen Ali caught behind off a no ball. There were 22 overs remaining in the match and England had only lost half their side. India were in a desperate search for wickets, and that’s when Siraj joined the act.
The 27-year-old, who was playing just his seventh Test, had shown on a number of occasions in the past that he had the uncanny knack of making things happen. He had got on a hat-trick in the first innings, and he did the same in the second. The right-arm pacer bowled near identical deliveries to Moeen and Sam Curran to get their outside edges. And with those wickets, India believed again.
But there was one final piece of resistance from England – a partnership between Buttler and Ollie Robinson. There were just 10 overs remaining and it seemed the match would end in a draw after all. But once again, the leader of India’s attack raised his hand. Bumrah came from round the wicket to bowl a stunning slower delivery to Robinson. It beat the right-hander all ends up and trapped him in front.
In the next over, Siraj completed a match haul of eight wickets by ending Buttler’s defiance before knocking back Anderson’s off stump. India had completed a turnaround for the ages and there were scenes of unbridled joy.
From squandering the advantage after a near perfect day one, from having a lead of just 28 when Kohli was dismissed on day four, from losing Pant early on day five, India had fought with remarkable desire to add another glorious chapter to their cricket history.
India’s final-day heroics at Lord’s in the 2021 Test series was about the moments. When Shami took off his helmet after scoring a half-century, when Bumrah faced off with Buttler and Wood, when he roared after dismissing Root, when Siraj and Robinson went face to face, when Kohli nearly exploded after every England wicket, when India’s players scampered to collect the stumps after winning. These moments will be etched in the minds of all those who witnessed them for a long, long time.
Test cricket has the power to provide days like no other. Days that feel surreal, when your stomach is in knots and you struggle to believe what you’re seeing. India finishing at 36/9 in Adelaide was one such day, their historic win at Brisbane was another, and this triumph at Lord’s can be added to the list too.
India got a 1-0 lead with this win, but it felt like they had defeated England twice. Once when they refused to get all out, and once when they got England all out in just 51.5 overs... all in a day’s work for their indomitable bowlers.