“The world has gone mad. The world has gone completely mad when you’ve got Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah sharing a partnership of 89 on the fifth morning. No one, not even their parents, or their close family, would have predicted that one.”
In many ways, David Gower’s reaction encapsulates the feeling of every single person who tuned in to watch the final day showdown of the Lord’s Test between India and England. When Ollie Robinson first sent Rishabh Pant packing, and then trapped Ishant Sharma in front, fans of both England and India started mentally preparing themselves for a ‘180 needed off 70 overs’ ish scenario.
After all, yet to come to bat was only the trio of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, all of whom had a batting average under 10 in the longest format. Between them, Shami and Bumrah had lasted just 15 balls in the first innings, failing to add a single run to India’s total.
So when the two bowlers combined and put together an unbeaten 89-run stand to essentially bat England out of the game, there was disbelief within both sections of fans. Those in the Indian dressing room regarded it a very special performance too, evident by the standing ovation they gave to the two seamers as they made their way back to the changing room for lunch.
But according to Gower, Shami and Bumrah’s heroics with the bat on the final day were as much down to England skipper Joe Root’s ‘emotional’ tactics as it was down to the two tail-enders’ grit, courage and skill.
With tempers flaring, Root and England shelved conventional plans and attacked Bumrah and Shami incessantly with short balls, and it was a ploy that ended up playing into the visitors’ hands as the two tail-enders kept chipping away with the runs to slowly but steadily steer well clear of the 200-run mark.
“What was interesting about the final hour was that the passion and emotions got too much for England. Yes they’d been stirred up with the Bumrah and Anderson stuff, but it’s amazing how when your emotions take control, your carefully laid plans could become mislaid plans. Every Root had to admit that he got his tactics wrong,” Gower said speaking exclusively to Cricket.com, reviewing the Lord’s Test.
“Captaincy is one of those things where sometimes you think you’re getting a hang of it. But then you have days like the final morning, and you realize that you’re still learning. In truth, you’re always learning - everyday you’re captain of any national team.
“But this is not the first time he’s been in such a situation. Those are the situations that can make or break a game. As we can now see very very vividly. That’s where a captain has to be able to say to himself and his players, ‘Look, this is our plan. Let’s not lose control.’ and that’s what I’m sure he regrets most.”
Led by an injured Mark Wood, England bombarded the duo of Shami and Bumrah with short balls, but according to the former England skipper, the Three Lions missed a trick by not utilizing the yorker.
“How often do we say to people in one-day cricket, when the ball is flying everywhere, ‘how bout the yorker?’ How often when the yorker works, do we see the stumps rearranged. That’s the sort of delivery I think should be bowled in these circumstances more often. Aim at the stumps, full and straight, if you get it right, the tail-enders sometimes struggle with that,” Gower said.
England lost the plot in the first session of the final day with the ball, but needing to survive close to 60 overs, the hosts’ problems were exacerbated by the no-show of the top three batters, who combinedly scored a mere 9 runs in the second innings. Gower opined that having an unreliable top three - which in turn ends up exposing Root early - is a ‘huge problem’ for England.
“I’m afraid one of the big problems England have at the moment is a top three you cannot rely on. So Joe himself is resigned to being in there (batting) as soon as he leaves the field. Inevitably it seems he’s going to be in there very quickly. It’s very rare that he’s not.”
The 64-year-old was, however, full of praise for the Virat Kohli-led visitors. Gower described India’s showing on the final day a ‘stunning performance’, and claimed that the passionate Indian side fully deserved to go 1-0 up in the series.
“That was a stunning final day performance. Literally stunning. The last hour and a half in the morning, that really decided the game. My great friend and ex-colleague Michael Atherton often used to say ‘Test matches can be lost in one bad session’. Well that was one bad hour that cost England.
“But hats off to India. Just the way bowlers kept going, just the way Kohli’s enthusiasm kept them going, just showed everyone how passionate this Indian team is. They are 1-0 up and they fully deserve it.”
Rain played spoilsport in the first Test at Trent Bridge but there was to be no such external interference in the second game at Lord’s, which went into the final thirty minutes of Day 5. Gower described the see-saw contest a ‘traditionalist’s dream’, and claimed that the game personified the beauty of Test cricket.
“It was a great match. It is what we, as traditionalists, like. We like a game that lasts all the way through five days, has twists and turns, has people wondering who is going to win and there are enough twists and turns to keep a fan going over five days. That;s what we love about Test cricket. That’s what makes it entertaining - in a very different way to white-ball cricket we see so much of, these days.”