You are facing a formidable India. They have won their last 16 home Test series. You head into your second innings trailing by 190. Somehow, you win by 28 runs.
Ask any England fan after day two whether this result was likely and you would have been met with a laugh or a scoff, scolded for your blind optimism in the face of inevitable defeat.
India have won 43 out of their last 47 Tests, why would that stop now? Never before have India lost a Test at home in which they had led by 100 runs or more on first innings, why would that stop now?
Somehow, it did.
England clawed themselves back from the brink of an innings defeat to secure a victory of Herculean proportions, proving the doubters wrong and once again showing that there is something special happening in that dressing room.
So, just how did they do it? Let’s take a look…
Pope’s pivotal innings
On days three and four in Hyderabad, it was the turn of Ollie Pope to step to the fore with what is surely his best Test innings to date.
Pope scored a sublime 196 runs from 278 deliveries to revive England and give the tourists hope of victory over India, setting the hosts a target of 231 to win the first Test.
It is fair to say that many did not see Pope as the player who would be the protagonist in this story, his nervous first innings weighed on many people’s minds; the England No 3 had fallen for just one from 11 deliveries, poking left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja to slip. It was wondered whether Pope could be the one to deliver. He answered that question and then some.
His fifth Test hundred came in a composed and mature fashion from 154 deliveries, Pope growing into his innings as England tried their best to build a lead that would give them a fighting chance. 17 fours saw him close day three on 148 not out from 208 deliveries, adding four more boundaries on day four.
The performance also came in the context of this Test being Pope’s first game back since June and there was at least some talk of him not playing before Harry Brook went home for personal reasons.
With such a backdrop, Pope provided an innings that gave England hope and one that will be remembered by his team-mates for a long time to come – Joe Root calling it a “masterclass” of batting in the subcontinent.
Without Pope’s innings, there would have been no opportunity for a young Lancashire debutant to show what he can really do on the international stage…
Hartley’s hearty fightback: Breaking the curse of the Lancashire spinner
If you are a Lancashire spin bowler picked to play for England, you enter the fray with a history behind you that you do not want to end up a part of.
The past four spin bowlers that the Red Roses have had represent England – Chris Schofield, Simon Kerrigan, Matt Parkinson, and Liam Livingstone – have had a torrid time, just five caps between them and performances that provide a mix of poor fortune, injuries, and zero wickets.
At the end of the first innings, it looked like Tom Hartley’s name was going to be added to that list.
The 24-year-old spinner posted figures of 2-131 and suffered a chastening first innings, with the first and fifth balls of his debut smashed for six.
It led to many questions being raised as to why Stokes kept turning to Hartley with so many runs being leaked. Hartley answered the critics on day four in some fashion.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s not going to sink in for a while I think. I’m over the moon to be honest.
It’s one of the best dressing rooms I’ve been in.”
The England skipper put his faith in the Lancashire lad once again and this time he delivered and continuously troubled the India top order, removing dangerman Yashashvi Jaiswal (15) and Shubman Gill (0) in the same over before taking out captain Rohit Sharma (39) and then Axar Patel (17) for his fourth.
Hartley turned his attention to the lower order later on, removing Srikar Bharat (28), Ravichandran Ashwin (28), and Mohammed Siraj (12) to finish the day with seven wickets and nine in total for the Test, breaking the curse that preceded him.
“What a Test match this is. The young man was down and out in the first innings, people doubted him. But on day four Tom Hartley has produced something special.”
Stokes is a captain that showed the faith in his spinners to keep going and the consistency shown in Hartley’s fourth-innings display was the ultimate reward for that trust.
Sublime Stokes in the field: ‘You cannot do that!’
Speaking of Stokes, he was, of course involved in the England resurgence with arguably one of the moments of the Test.
Ravindra Jadeja (2) is one of the quickest between the stumps, but even his speed was no match to a diving, off-balance, under arm flick from Stokes to seal the run out and another huge wicket for his side.
The England captain only had knee surgery in November but once again offered a moment of individual brilliance that not many can rival.
When the England captain comes up with a moment like that, the reaction that follows is always intense…
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A win for the ages as Test cricket provides shocks on two continents
England’s monumental win took place on a day that Test cricket took over the sporting consciousness, their famous victory following a landmark moment at the Gabba as the West Indies beat Australia by eight runs, their first victory on those shores since 1997.
Hartley, Pope, and Stokes may have starred in Hyderabad, but there was one name on everybody’s lips in Brisbane: Shamar Joseph.
Young star Joseph took seven wickets while playing on a broken toe, just one year on from deciding to take a risk and play professional cricket and leave his job as a security guard.
Brian Lara was in tears, the Australians were stunned, and in two continents split by four hours 30 minutes, two great moments unfolded. Test cricket really matters…
Dates for remainder of England’s tour of India
Second Test – February 2-6 (Vizag)
Third Test – February 15-19 (Rajkot)
Fourth Test – February 23-27 (Ranchi)
Fifth Test – March 7-11 (Dharamshala)
Follow over-by-over text commentary from the second Test between India and England, in Vizag, live on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App from 3.30am on Friday (first ball at 4am).
Disclaimer : The content in this article is for educational and informational purposes only.