The First test was to set the foundation. In a see-saw contest at Edgbaston, England eventually emerged as winners by 31 runs. India captain Kohli, who had scored an impressive 149 in the first innings, could count himself unlucky to end on the losing team. But some fine England performance, especially from Sam Curran, brought the victory.
England had edged the first Test, but the second was to be the only truly one-sided affair of the series. The Indian side, still reeling from the disappointment of defeat at Edgbaston, arrived at Lords. Joe Root won the toss and put the tourists in to bat. Jimmy Anderson then worked his magic.
Anderson was in imperious form. Both openers had been removed, with just 10 runs on the board. Captain Kohli entered the fray, attempting to dig his team out of a hole. But Pujara was soon run out, reducing India to 15-3. Kohli’s stay at the wicket was brought to an end by Woakes and India were to be all out for 107. Advantage England.
But England’s own batting frailties had been a cause of concern earlier in the year. How would they react from this position?
Some early wobbles left England at 89-4, but Bairstow and Woakes were to blast England along. Woakes made an unbeaten 137, as England reached 397-7 declared. It would need a strong Indian fightback to avoid defeat. Instead, they were bowled out foe 130 (with 4 more wickets for Anderson), as England took a 2-0 lead in the five match series.
The team’s moved on to Trent Bridge, where it was England’s turn to bat poorly. Bowled out for 161 in the first innings (Pandya taking 5-28), the home team never looked like recovering. Beaten by 203 runs, they would now have to work hard to seal the series.
The pivotal Test in the series was to come at Southampton, as August moved into September. Delightful weather greeted the two teams. England batted first, with an important lower order 78 from Curran helping them to reach 246 all out. The total looked a little below par, particularly as Pujara and Kohli settled in during the second day. But the dismissal of Kohli (by Curran) halted Indian progress. Pujara was short of partners, eventually left stranded on 132 not out. His colossal effort helped India to reach 273 and a slight, but potentially important first innings lead.
England were soon to lose the out of form Cook, but Root steadied the ship. There were critical runs further down the order, from Buttler, Stokes and Curran. England had reached 271 all out, giving themselves a fighting chance. How would India handle batting last?
Soon reduced to 22-3, India were in trouble. But a century partnership between Kohli and Rahane moved them into the box seat. Step forward Moeen Ali. First, he had the dangerous Kohli caught by Cook on 58. Soon after, he removed wicketkeeper Pant and had Rahane trapped lbw for a feisty 51, leaving India on 153-7. They were never to recover, eventually falling 60 runs short of the England score. The hosts had sealed series victory, with one match still to play.
Throughout the summer, there had been much debate about the future of England stalwart and former captain, Alastair Cook. One big score in Australia had been followed with a number of disappointments and Cook’s place was the subject of real discussion. Some suggested that he was maintaining his place in the team due to a lack of competitors to open for the team.
Between the game at Southampton and the final Test match, at The Oval, Cook announced that the last Test of the series would also be his last in an England short. With the series won, the focus at The Oval would very much be on the Essex star.
Joe Root again won the toss at The Oval, opting to bat first. Cook walked to the crease to a standing ovation, which was to be repeated again and again in the coming days. At lunch on that first day, Cook was unbeaten on 37. In the afternoon session, he reached his half century. By tea, he was 66 not out and England were daring to dream of a fairytale ending.
He fell on 71, however, bowled by Bumrah. England went on to make 332 all out (Buttler top scoring with 89). In reply, they bowled out the Indian side for 292, giving England a handy first innings lead of 40.
Cook was out to bat for the final time as an England player, when he emerged just before tea on the third day of play. He was met by another ovation and it wouldn’t be his last. There was fluency in his batting that had been lacking at various times in the past few years. He accumulated runs steadily, particularly when joined by Root. At the end of day 3, England were 114-2, with Cook unbeaten on 46.
Cook reached his 50 off 127 balls, but he wasn’t ready to stop there. Just before lunch, he reached his final century for England. He was finally out for a splendid 147, supported by Joe Root (125). England declared at 423-8, with a seemingly unbeatable total. There was, however, one last twist in the tale of this eventful series.
Rahul, the India opener, batted wonderfully in reaching 149. He lacked support, until joined by Pant, who had disappointed with the bat throughout the series. Here, the two gave England a fright. Their partnership was worth more than 200, with Rahul eventually falling to Rashid. England mopped up the last few wickets, to complete victory by 118 runs.
A great way for Cook to bow out, but the achievement of another English great shouldn’t be ignored. When Jimmy Anderson clean bowled the Indian tailender, Mohammed Shami, he completed victory for his team. In doing so, he also overtook Glenn McGrath to become the fast bowler to have taken more Test wickets than any other. An incredible achievement from a player who had made so many appearances alongside Cook.