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India came into the third Test against England 2-0 down. The team was a shambles and the loss at Lord’s seemed to have taken the sting out of the team.
England won the toss and decided to put India in again. We could instantly see the different approach by the Indian openers.
Both Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were trying to play the ball late and refused to chase the wide ones. It seemed like they were finally ready to play proper Test cricket.
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane then batted brilliantly after a mini collapse to help India to get to 329.
Even though that doesn’t look like a big score, the tourists would have been thrilled if it were offered to them after the toss.
England began their innings brilliantly and had raced along to 0-54. The Indian quicks looked listless in the first session and there were lots of short balls giving easy runs to the openers. Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma returned to basics after lunch and things began to unravel for England pretty quickly after that.
Hardik Pandya bowled a crucial six-over spell which was the best he has bowled since his debut against Sri Lanka in 2017.
Pandya has been ridiculed at times. There is no denying he has the skill to succeed as a Test player. He is a bowler who can bowl at 135 kilometres per hour on a consistent basis and can get you a quick 50 with the bat.
His performances in either discipline weren’t consistent enough to warrant a place in the side, though. That was the issue with his spot in the XI. He was not pulling his weight as a bowler or as a batsman.
His bowling at Trent Bridge, though, was phenomenal. He bowled six overs and claimed 5 for 28, with England finding themselves 168 runs behind the Indian total after the first innings.
Pandya’s spell was one of the best by an Indian bowler outside the subcontinent in recent history. It was a magnificent display of control and swing. He swung the ball at pace and was beating both edges of the bat.
The wicket of Stuart Broad highlighted the skill he possesses as a bowler. He kept taking the ball away from Broad before bringing one in which resulted in one of the plumbest LBW dismissals ever.
This is just a single spell and I am not for one moment suggesting Pandya has turned the corner as a bowler, but spells like these should be appreciated and savoured as an Indian fan. It’s very rare for an Indian pace bowler to run through an opposition side outside the subcontinent and when it happens, it gives you an amazing high.
Hardik has a great opportunity now to build on this success. If India go on to win this Test, it will be one of the most important spells in this series for the visitors. Pandya, if he is able to bowl like this more often than not, can be a good bowling all-rounder. A good fourth seamer outside the subcontinent who can get some useful runs lower down the order.
Hopefully he builds on this performance and delivers more in the future.