India tick every box in a performance for the ages

Nagraj Gollapudi at Trent Bridge6 Minute Read

WATCH: Full highlights of a famous Indian victory

India came into Trent Bridge 0-2 down in a five match series against England and produced a clinical performance

They lost the toss. That was the only thing that did not go in India's favour in Nottingham.

Thereon, it worked like clockwork. The openers raised the first bugle. The top order was solid. There were two century stands from middle-order batsmen. The allrounder turned up quietly and effectively. The fast bowlers revved up the intensity and their speeds, hitting the same length consistently, forcing edges. The slip catchers, with hands like magnets, gobbled up the edges. Virat Kohli's India did all this twice. They produced the combinations to knock over Joe Root's men.

This from a team that was on the brink of disintegration after going down in the first two Tests. A team whose opening batsmen could not see off the first spells of the new-ball bowlers, barring the first innings of the series. A team whose middle order, except for Kohli, had shown no evidence of stickability. The batsmen's plight had told on the bowlers in Lord's, where they failed to bowl England out in the only innings they batted in.

Despite three Tests remaining the pressure was mounting on Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri. Eminent cricketing voices like the former India captain Sunil Gavaskar bluntly and publicly questioned the team's lack of preparation. Gavaskar asked how India could enter a five-Test series having played just one warm-up game - against Essex, which was cut to three days from four. Gavaskar could not understand how players were allowed to take a break after the ODI series instead of practising with the red Dukes ball.

Valid questions. Only Kohli and Shastri could answer them. A more pressing and urgent question remained: how to get the top order to survive the first hour at least. After the defeats in the first two Tests Kohli said it was up to the individual to look in the mirror, accept their mistakes, and find the mental gumption to fight back.

For the batsmen, and the rest of the team, that mirror was Kohli. He was humbled by James Anderson in an intense spell of fast bowling on the second day at Edgbaston. Kohli was defeated by good bowling, but his spirit and focus were not dented. Kohli scored 200 runs across the two innings at Edgbaston, and he did so again here. Paul Farbrace, England's assistant coach, said his batsmen should learn from Kohli too.

Kohli's words did have an effect. His batsmen did reflect. Shikhar Dhawan, all hard hands at Edgbaston and dropped at Lord's, returned, with reduced bat speed and softer hands. His opening partnerships with KL Rahul in both innings created confidence in the middle order. In both innings India made use of the softer ball and less pronounced seam to construct match-defining century stands. Ajinkya Rahane, who had looked utterly bereft of confidence in the first two Tests, was transformed into the Rahane of the 2014 tour, with decisive footwork and precise shot-selection. He was Kohli's best man in the first innings, and Cheteshwar Pujara, showing something of his old serenity, took over the role in the second.

India were sitting pretty thanks to Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar PujaraAFP

If India have been confident about one area, it is their fast bowling. Injuries to Jasprit Bumrah at the top end of the long tour and missing out on Bhuvneshwar Kumar might have put doubts in the minds of the pundits, but the dressing room had enough faith in the bowling group. Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami did not let England batsmen prosper at Edgbaston. They might not have been as convincing at Lord's, but here they showed that eagerness once again.

The bowlers were hungry. No one more than Bumrah, who was returning after an injury layoff of close to two months. Bowling in his first Test in England, Bumrah hit the lengths and lines of an experienced bowler, at optimum speeds. England's batsmen were undone not just by his unusual action and angle, but also his ability to land the ball on the seam and move it against that angle.

Bumrah became the third Indian fast bowler, after Ishant and Hardik Pandya to pick up a five-for in this series. It's an unprecedented feat for as many Indian bowlers to pick up five-fors in a series in England. The fast bowlers took every wicket in the third Test barring the last one - which fell to R Ashwin - coming close to repeating their feat of picking up all 20 in a single Test match, which they achieved for the first time in January this year, at the Wanderers. All these wickets owe something to the fact that India have won the speed battle in this series so far. Ishant, Shami, Bumrah, Pandya and Umesh Yadav have all clocked speeds in the high 80s consistently, often breaching the 90mph mark. All of them have shown the variety, too, to confound the batsmen.

Let us not forget slip fielding, one of India's weaker suits for several years. In this Test, India's slip fielders showed soft, relaxed hands and confidence. Rahul galloped away seven times in celebration, converting every chance that flew towards him at second slip.

Before this Test, both teams had been abysmal in the cordon, with experienced hands failing to grasp the ball cleanly. India's three slips often seemed to stand too close together for comfort, but it didn't seem to affect their understanding. They took nine catches in all, with Rahul grabbing seven.

Jasprit Bumrah races to greet his teammates after tearing through England's middle orderGetty Images

Trent Bridge 2018 is now one of India's biggest wins in overseas Tests - the fourth-biggest in terms of runs in Tests played in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. It is perhaps their most complete win too, at least in this century. It will rank alongside Headingley 2002, where the conditions were colder and the pitch greener, and Johannesburg 2006, where Sreesanth ran through a shell-shocked South Africa.

It was at Trent Bridge in 2002, where India began their revival having lost the first Test at Lord's by a demoralizing 170 runs. England then replied with a mammoth total in reply to India's 357, taking a lead of 260. Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer fell early in India's second innings, leaving them 11 for 2. India's big three - Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly - then showed their class. And the 17-year-old Parthiv Patel put out his tent for 84 minutes, enough for the whole of India, and some Englishmen at Nottingham too, to want to pull his chubby cheeks in appreciation. India won the next Test in Leeds. It was the batting that enabled India to square that Test series in England.

Trent Bridge was again the venue when Rahul Dravid's team won in 2007, in a series India won 1-0.

Trent Bridge, 2018, will be remembered for a complete performance from India. For Kohli's mastery. For Pandya's heroics with the ball. For Bumrah's pace and skill. For the slip catching. For the composure India's batsmen showed in both innings.

The victory took less than 10 minutes to arrive on the fifth morning. There were no screams or whoops of celebration from Kohli and his men. When Rahul offered Kohli a stump, India's captain did not want it. Pandya and Bumrah took a stump each - they will look at them with pride in years to come, recalling the match that showed the world their full potential as Test cricketers. The door was closing on India when they arrived in Nottingham. India now have one foot in this series.