After the disappointments of the final day at Lord’s, England came to Headingley knowing they needed to bounce back after the heavy criticism they had faced. Unsurprisingly, Dom Sibley was omitted following a series of disappointing scores and an increasingly shot-free approach to his game, allowing Haseeb Hameed up to open. That meant that Dawid Malan was recalled to the side for the first time in three years to come in at three. He has shown excellent form for England in T20s, but he has also averaged 56.78 in first-class cricket since the start of 2019. However, he had played only one first-class innings in the last 12 months, albeit one where he made 199 back in June. Mark Wood had failed to recover from his shoulder injury sustained while fielding in the previous Test, which meant another run-out for Craig Overton; Lancashire paceman Saq Mahmood was called up to the squad, but didn’t make the final XI.
By contrast, there were no changes for the victorious Indians, meaning that Ravi Ashwin continues to miss out, and Ishant Sharma got the nod for the final pace option. Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat, a decision that quickly backfired when Jimmy Anderson struck in the first over when K.L.Rahul tried something expansive to a full-pitched delivery that swung and edged through to Jos Buttler.
It wasn’t long before Cheteshwar Pujara fell to the same combination, pushing away from his body. Kohli fell into the same trap, with the same result, and India were 21 for three inside the first hour. England’s bowling continued to give the batsmen few opportunities, and Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane appeared to have battled their way through to lunch when the latter edged Ollie Robinson to give Buttler his fourth catch of the morning. India went in for the break on 56 for four, with Sharma on 15 not out after facing 75 balls. That wicket also took Robinson to 50 for the summer in first-class cricket.
The pattern continued in the afternoon as Rishabh Pant edged Robinson to give Buttler his fifth catch of the day; it was a careless shot in the circumstances. India were now crawling along at a run an over, faced by the probing England attack. A high, wide bouncer from Overton was lobbed to Robinson on the pull from Rohit, who was out for 19 off 105 balls. It was the sort of dismissal you might see in club cricket on a Sunday afternoon friendly – sometimes, as those same club cricketers will tell you, it’s not the good balls that get you. Mohammed Shami fell first ball, edging to Rory Burns. Overton’s hat-trick ball was speared in at the stumps, but Ishant survived. Ravindra Jadeja followed almost immediately, LBW to Sam Curran. Jasprit Bumrah was then LBW first ball as well, giving Curran a hat-trick ball, as India lost their fourth wicket in six balls. Overton finished off the innings as Mohammed Siraj edged to Root, and India were all out for 78. It was India’s third lowest total against England, and their worst since 1974.
England needed to get off to a good start, and were lucky to find Ishant lacking rhythm, and they reached tea on 21 without loss. In the evening session, Shami in particular caused problems, but the fifty partnership came up in the 21st over. After a run of 24 dots, Hameed hit the ball to the boundary to give England the lead – it was only the second time in India’s history that the opening pair had exceeded India’s first-innings total on the first day, following the Ahmedabad Test v South Africa in 2008. After 219 balls, Rory Burns and Hameed brought up the hundred partnership, with both men on 46 – the first by an opening pair in 26 innings. Hameed brought up his fifty in 110 balls with an edge dropped in the slips. Burns soon followed him to fifty in 123 balls. When the score reached 118, it was England’s highest opening partnership since 2016, featuring Alastair Cook and Hameed in Rajkot; it had been a very long wait. The day ended with an overthrow and England on 120 for nought – surely the most dominant first day for the side since the 2015 Ashes and Broad’s famous eight for 15.
India needed to fight back on Day Two, but it took more than 30 minutes before Shami bowled Burns through the gate for 61. Malan came in with a Test average of 27.85, suggesting he had plenty to prove but also as the No 1 ranked T20 player in the world, and a lovely cover drive set him on his way. Jadeja came on and got one to turn past Hameed’s outside edge to bowl him for 68. This brought in Root on 159 for two (the best score in 94 innings when he’s come in at four); given his current form (averaging more than 67 in 2021), this gave him a freedom he has rarely enjoyed of late, given England’s top-order woes. After ten balls, he’d already reached double figures, and with India initially leaving the third man boundary vacant, runs would always flow for him, and by lunch England were 182 for two and in complete charge.
In the afternoon, Root continued to play shots all around the wicket, seeming to have so much time to play the ball. India took the second new book immediately it became due, with the score on 226 for two, but it had no instant impact. Root soon reached his fifty off just 57 balls with a glorious square drive. Malan wasn’t far behind, bringing up his fifty in 99 balls. It was the first time England’s top four had all made half-centuries since March 2013 in New Zealand, when Steven Finn was nightwatchman – which suggests that may have been a more placid surface. The hundred partnership came up in 138 balls, as England then went past a lead of 200. Just on the cusp of tea, Malan tickled one to leg and despite Pant not hearing anything, Siraj persuaded Kohli to review the not-out decision and was vindicated. Malan was out for 70 and the score was 298 for three, with runs having coming at almost 4.5 an over in the session.
In the evening, Root hit his first straight drive to the boundary, taking him into the nineties. Jonny Bairstow always seems to bat at his best with Root, and he got off to an excellent start. But Root was still leading the way, bringing up his century off only 124 balls. It was his sixth hundred of the year, equalling the record for England batsmen (alongside Denis Compton in 1947 and Michael Vaughan in 2002); it was his eighth century in England v India Tests, ahead of any batsman from either side. Remarkably it was only his second at his home ground of Headingley. It took him to 23 Test centuries, level with Kevin Pietersen, meaning that only Alastair Cook (with 33) now has more. Bairstow was caught by Kohli for 29 off Shami to make it 350 for four, just as he seemed set to make a big score. Buttler’s innings was shortlived as he chipped one to square leg on 7. Soon Root went past 500 runs in the series, with no other England batsman having reached 150.
Just after England’s lead went past 300, Root was finally bowled by Bumrah for 121, his highest Test score at his home ground, and he went off to a standing ovation from the Leeds crowd. Immediately after, Moeen Ali lofted a simple one to mid on, and England were stuttering a bit to 383 for seven. Curran pulled one off Siraj to fall for 15, but England got to the close on 423 for eight, a lead of 345. No team has ever come back to win from such a first-innings deficit.
The third day started in overcast conditions. Overton was LBW for 32 and then Robinson was bowled for a duck and England were all out for 432, leaving India with a huge task even to avoid an innings defeat. Shami was the most successful bowler with four for 95. Alarmingly, outside the in-form opening pair, Jadeja was the only India player in the series with more than a hundred runs to his name. Rahul narrowly survived an LBW appeal, which was overturned on his review, as he and Rohit battled away against the new ball, scoring just 20 runs in the first 15 overs, with just one boundary in that time. Eventually, the pressure had to tell, but it needed a brilliant diving catch from Bairstow at second slip off Overton to remove Rahul for 8, and at lunch it was 34 for one.
The afternoon began with a probing spell from Anderson, but there was no wicket for him. Root missed out on reviewing a Robinson LBW shout against Rohit, who went on to reach his fifty off 125 balls. Pujara, who had been struggling in this series, began to grow in confidence. The pair completed the session without loss, reaching 112 for one at tea.
Early in the evening, Robinson had Rohit LBW for 59 with one he reviewed that was shown to be just clipping leg stump. It brought Kohli to the crease, desperately in need of a big Test score. Pujara reached his fifty in 91 balls, and unsurprisingly Anderson was soon back in action to try to remove the skipper, who had fallen to him twice already in the series. But for now, it was Kohli who had the upper hand. The pair continued to bat on towards the end of the day, taking the score on to 215 for two at the close.
England were able to take the new ball immediately on Day Four, knowing this was a crucial moment, especially as batting conditions looked good. Pujara padded up to an inswinger from Robinson and was given out LBW on review for 91 – it was the perfect start. Kohli finally made it to fifty off 120 balls, having battled away during a probing session. But he couldn’t keep going, as Robinson found his edge, through to Root, and the India skipper was out for 55: 237 for four.
It was the final blow to India’s spirit. When Anderson finally took his first second-innings wicket of the summer, it was Rahane edging to Buttler, the third key wicket of the first hour. With Pant charging down the pitch to his first and third balls, he was clearly planning on hitting his way out of trouble, but edged Robinson for 1, making the England man the leading wicket-taker of the series, with 15. Ali came on and bowled Shami with one that turned square from just his second delivery. Ishant got a faint nick off Robinson to give the bowler the second five-wicket haul of his career. Jadeja played a few strokes in his 30, but edged Overton to Buttler. Siraj followed two balls later.
India were all out for 278, with Robinson finishing with a career-best Man of the Match return of five for 65; he now has 23 wickets in four Tests at an average of 17.65. England had won by an innings and 76 runs. For Root, it was his 27th win as Test captain, beating Michael Vaughan’s record. England will need to make at least one change for the fourth Test, as Buttler will be absent as his wife is due to give birth to their second child. Curran’s position in the team might also come under consideration, having taken just three wickets and scored 74 runs in the series. But with the series now level at 1-1, it is India who have the biggest problems going in to the fourth Test on Thursday at The Oval.