Another inevitable England batting collapse. On a strangely sunny Monday morning in early September, the air of positivity that had carried over from day four of the Fourth Test into the morning session quickly evaporated as the spectators packed into the Oval realised this was the same old England as they collapsed to 210 all out and a 157-run defeat.
Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed had got themselves to 77-0 and the hosts had a real chance at chasing down the 368 runs needed for victory. When the former reached his 50 England looked strong, but he lost his wicket on a half century and his fellow opener should have been dismissed on 55.
He fired a shot to Mohammed Siraj who missed a catch and instead took the ball full pelt in the ging-gang-goolies, leaving the Indian fielder on his back in the field, as the male half of the crowd winced. Hameed held onto his wicket for a while longer, but Dawid Malan, when he had a real chance to impress, was involved in a run out that left the duo in the middle embarrassed.
Despite the early shakes, England made it to 141-2 and with captain Joe Root in the middle, who has performed so admirably this year, had a serious chance of chasing down that total. Then the inevitable unfolded before our eyes, and it is something we have seen all too often with this England side.
Jasprit Bumrah took out Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow with two absolutely perfect deliveries that saw the stumps go flying as the hosts went from 141-2 to 147-6. Once again, it was England’s batting that let the side down as their soft underbelly was exposed in dramatic fashion.
When it comes down to the big moments, the final day in major Test matches, this England side have proved once again they do not have the composure to see out a day. The rest of the day was a forgone conclusion after Root dragged onto his own stumps and unfortunately for England, the tail-enders couldn’t pull off a miracle.
Forget the fairly high run chase or the favourable bowling conditions, having started the game with ten wickets in hand, any capable batting line-up should have been able to bat out the day for a draw, at a minimum. The fact England lost this match before 5pm, and are now unable to win the Test Series is damning.
Chris Silverwood tried to change things during this series, bringing Malan in and pushing Hammed up the order, yet on Monday nobody from England’s batting line-up stood out, not even the best batsman in the world, Joe Root. In the Third Test, England amazingly bowled out Virat Kohli’s visitors for 78 to win with an innings to spare, but it now appears that was a complete one-off, rather than a turning point.
Scoring 500 runs across the two innings in the Fourth Test is put into perspective by India’s second innings total of 466. England couldn’t get close to them at the Oval, and once again Silverwood and his staff are left licking their wounds as they prepare to head to Old Trafford, where a series draw will now be the best Root and his side can hope for.
Having gone into this Test with so much promise and positivity, the same problems clearly remain with the bat and the ball. The middle order - beyond Root - is still as flimsy as a chocolate teapot, lacking a true character that can stand their ground and bat for hours on end. O Ben Stokes, Ben Stokes, wherefore art thou Ben Stokes?