Joe Root called on his England players to seek inspiration in the brilliant bowling of Jasprit Bumrah that twisted the fourth Test in India’s favour after lunch on the final day, and to learn to seize windows of opportunity to set them on the path to victory.
“Something we’ve got to get better at is recognising the key moments in games and forcing it a little bit more,” Root said after England had lost by 157 runs at the Oval. “We didn’t quite manage to do it this time. You look at that spell by Bumrah: he recognised a key moment in the game and turned it on its head this afternoon, and we’ve got to make sure we do that as well. It was a wonderful spell that really turned the game – they got the ball reversing nicely and they really took advantage of it.”
One of Root’s frustrations was the fact that, though English players reached 30 on eight occasions over their two innings, none went on to reach 100. “If you’re 30 not out, or if you’re thrown the ball, you need to get the bit between your teeth and turn the game by making a big hundred or taking some quick wickets,” he said. “You need to take advantage when conditions are in your favour and turn the game on its head. It’s something we’ve done throughout the series but not consistently enough.”
At lunch England were 131 for two chasing a target of 368, only to lose six wickets for 62 runs in the next session. Bumrah’s efforts with the ball after lunch, when he bowled Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow, did most to consign England to defeat. “As soon as the ball started reversing a bit Jasprit said, ‘Just give me the ball,’ and he bowled that six-over spell that completely shifted the game,” said Virat Kohli, who ranked this as “definitely in the top three bowling performances that I’ve witnessed as India captain”.
But for all the excellence of the opposition Root felt his team should not have allowed themselves to fall 2-1 behind in the series. “Well as India have played, I still feel we should have got something out of this Test match,” said Root, whose side led by 99 after both teams’ first innings.
“There’s been a number of periods within the game when I felt we were ahead and had a great chance. To be sat here with nothing to show from the week, it’s frustrating.
“There’s no point trying to sugarcoat it. We should have got something from this game.
I think it was lost earlier in the game. We should have got a bigger lead first time round with the bat. It would have been nice to have another 100 runs, then we’d be looking at a very different game. Catching, we did put down a few chances. Some were extremely difficult, it has to be said but, if you give chances to world-class players, they take them.”
England have only three clear days to recover both mentally and physically for the fifth Test, which starts at Old Trafford on Friday. Though they had more time earlier in the series, they will draw on the way they recovered from defeat at Lord’s in the second Test to level the series at Headingley in the following game.
Jos Buttler and Mark Wood are both likely to return in Manchester but it might take some time for the bowlers who toiled through India’s second innings here to shake off the resulting aches. Craig Overton picked up another while batting, leaving the field clutching his arm after an Umesh Yadav delivery deflected off his elbow and into the stumps.
“It has been frustrating, the amount of injuries we’re currently having to contend with,” Root said. “But we’re more than capable of turning things round very quickly as we’ve very recently shown, and we’ve got to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to do just that. We’ve every confidence we can go to Old Trafford and get the win.”