India boast a formidable record in home conditions, especially on a turning track, but debutant Hartley claimed seven wickets for 62 as the hosts were bowled out for 202, 28 runs short on a thrilling fourth day of the Test.
Before the series, India had lost just three of their previous 46 home Test matches, and no side had won a single game there since Australia at Pune in 2017, while the last series victory was Sir Alastair Cook’s England side back in 2012-13.
England’s win has undoubtedly ignited the Test series, and Ben Stokes hailed it as “100 percent our greatest triumph since I became captain” to put the feat into context, although the win in the fading light against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in November 2022 might come in a close second in terms of away victories.
The manner of England’s win was exceptional. India have never before lost a home Test when they held a lead of over 100 following the first innings, and England have only won following a first-innings deficit of 190 twice before in Test history. After the first innings, Stokes’ men were chasing the game and looked short of an experienced spinner.
Under Stokes and Brendon McCullum, England have embodied a never-say-die attitude, accompanied by loyalty and faith shown to those chosen in the team. It was that loyalty that ultimately played a role in the victory.
Debutant Tom Hartley
In previous eras, Hartley would never have been given a chance. He was already a bit of an outside choice with just 20 first-class matches under his belt, but Bazball England does not solely pick their sides based on County Championship performances, and instead tries and hone potential.
Had he been handed the ball by another captain he might well have been pulled off long before, either when his first ball was smashed for six, or when he conceded 63 from only nine overs in the evening session of the first day, which would have been detrimental. But Stokes told the 25-year-old ahead of his Test debut that he would be given a lengthy spell regardless, and that faith would have undoubtedly had a role in inspiring his match-winning seven for 62 in the second.
India had been 42 without loss chasing 231 runs to win on the morning of the fourth day when Hartley struck with two wickets in two balls to dismiss Yashasvi Jaiswal, who had taken a liking to the spinner in the first innings, and Shubman Gill. He then trapped Rohit Sharma lbw for just 39, as the Indian captain had looked to start accelerating the run chase.
After taking the scalp of Axar Patel in the middle order, India threatened to change the course of momentum, with a 78-run partnership between Ravichandran Ashwin and Srikar Bharat that inspired belief from the largely partisan crowd. It was Hartley who stepped up to halt their course, bowling Bharat with a stunning delivery.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj came close to taking the game into the final day, putting on 25 before Hartley struck in the final over to spark the celebrations, as the Lancashire spin bowler became the first since Jim Laker to claim a seven-for on debut.
Ollie Pope’s stunning 196
Just two days previously, however, England looked on course for defeat but fought back with positivity and prowess to overwhelm India. That transformation was spearheaded by Ollie Pope’s “masterful” 196 that left his teammate and former captain Joe Root, “speechless”.
Only a few months before the series, Pope was propped up on a hospital bed having undergone shoulder surgery after he dislocated it in the field during England’s second Ashes Test at Lord’s. Before the tour of India started, that remained his last first-class game.
He rescued England on the third day, staying resolute at the crease while the wickets of Root, Jonny Bairstow and Stokes fell around him, absorbing the pressure of the Indian bowlers, and then building partnerships.
A 112-run stand with Ben Foakes on day three was followed up with important ones alongside Rehan Ahmed and Tom Hartley on day four that established what would become England’s match-winning lead.
But it was the manner of his innings, and the way he manipulated the field that truly caught the attention. He reverse-swept with confidence, swept well in front of square and paddle-scooped spinners over the wicketkeeper’s head to leave Rohit Sharma’s side chasing the game.
Pope’s performance was more remarkable after his scratchy one from 11 deliveries in the first innings, although he was dropped twice, first on 110 and then on 186. Even his wicket epitomised his confidence and fluidity, caught while going for another reverse-scoop on 196 to try and bring up the double century.
The response of Stokes sums up Pope’s feat, after the game, he said: “I’ve seen some special innings from Joe Root, but the whole innings on a difficult wicket, for me [Ollie Pope’s is] the greatest innings by an Englishman on the subcontinent.”
England’s second innings total was the highest by a touring side in India for 13 years, and Pope’s effort was the fourth-highest by any visiting batter on an exclusive list that includes the current team head coach alongside Andy Flower and Sir Garfield Sobers.
A win in the first step is a momentous occasion, but only marks the first step for a team looking to make their mark in the hardest environment in world cricket. After all, England won the first Test in the 2020-21 series and ended up losing the tour 3-1.