Saturday, July 20, 2024

WTC Final: India’s dream dies early on 5th day

India’s dreams died early. In one decisive Scott Boland over. It was the seventh of the morning, 47th of the Indian second innings. It was now a point of no return for the finalists in two successive World Test Championship.

Virat Kohli, for years quite talismanic as an Indian batsman, cover drove without getting to the pitch of the ball to be caught at second slip for 49. It is a lacuna that has crept into his game in recent years and one he has failed to rectify.

The former Indian captain’s all-purpose angled stance makes it a little more difficult for his left foot to reach the line of deliveries pitched slightly wide of the off-stump. Perhaps when he was younger and did not have a lower back issue, he possessed the athleticism to ensure his bat met the ball in the middle. Not so in recent years; not against better bowling in non-subcontinental conditions.

For India to conjure an unlikely victory — having played catch-up from Day 1 — both Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane needed to score mammothly. They were the last of the specialist batsmen not back in the pavilion. It would be asking too much of the part-batsmen to follow to pull off a heist of extraordinary proportions — which is what was demanded of the Indians, 444 runs in the fourth innings on a wicket of variable bounce.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, probably batting one position too high in the order at number 6 — the absence of KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant causing this — failed to echo his sprightly contribution of the first innings.

Two balls after Kohli’s exist, he was caught behind to one that flew off a good length. Indeed, it might even have been a third wicket in that Boland over; but KS Bharat’s edge off a short ball flew over first slip for four.

Thus, at 179 for five, Rahane was left as the last Indian hope of averting blushes on a burning deck. But going down with a fight was not to unfurl. The top-scorer in the first outing perished attempting to drive away from his body for 46.

The last five Indian wickets crumbled for a paltry 22 runs — slumping from 212 for five to 234 all out. The morning session was extended by seven minutes to accommodate a finish before lunch.

(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)

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