Where even the weirdest bits of quantum physics would have struggled to explain the end of the second Test and start of the third, the end at Headingley was a classically Netwonian affair.
First Law – Inertia – an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force. Yesterday, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli had India looking remarkably close to at rest. But once Ollie Robinson applied external force, India became very much an object in motion, and they crashed to an innings defeat in just 19.3 second new-ball overs.
Pujara had looked back to his commanding best for his 91, but he got his radar wrong as he tried to leave a Robinson in-ducker, presumably on length, and the only surprise was that the usually excellent Richard Kettleborough didn’t raise the finger. DRS did the needful, and India’s number three had fallen with neither he nor India adding to their overnight score.
Going into today, James Anderson hadn’t taken a second-innings wicket since that match-winning spell on the last morning of the first Chennai Test, and was on a run of just 11 second innings wickets at 48 in his last 22 Tests. But, while he was frustrated when Kohli seemed to have edged behind but was revealed on DRS to have missed the ball by some margin, he didn’t have to wait too long.
It wasn’t Kohli himself, who seemed to have found his groove with two on-side boundaries only to edge the outstanding Robinson to an alert Joe Root at first slip for 55, but Ajinkya Rahane isn’t a bad consolation prize. The ball was a late-period Anderson classic, a wobble-seamer that drew Rahane to play on the angle and moved away too late for the Indian vice-captain to leave.
Once a jumpy-looking Rishabh Pant poked rather than attacked a wide one straight to the bucket-handed Craig Overton at third slip, India had lost four for 24 in 11.5 overs to leave another Headingley miracle looking even more unlikely. The effervescent wicket-keeper hasn’t fired in this series, falling four times to Robinson and only passing 30 once.
Perhaps he would do well to remember just how good a player he is, and that, as he did so memorably in Sydney and Brisbane, he can keep out the bowlers’ best and can play to his rhythms rather than the opposition’s.
Ravindra Jadeja, who’s been very much a support act with the ball in this series but has played his part with the bat, was defiant in the face of impending doom. He drove powerfully at Anderson, he punished Overton for straying in line and length, and advanced to loft Moeen Ali towards the new edifice at the Football Stand End. Two yards over the rope, about 70 short of Liam Livingstone’s roof-clearer.
But doom could not be long denied. Mohammed Shami briefly delayed the inevitable with a successful DRS review, but he had already fallen to a ripper from Moeen Ali by the time Robinson got himself on the Headingley honours board.
Just over seven years on from being sacked by Yorkshire for unprofessional behaviour, it must have felt sweet when Ishant Sharma edged to Jos Buttler to give him his second five-for in just four Tests. He was superb all Test, slamming the ball time and again on a perfect length and generating late seam movement in an eight over spell down the Headingley hill that yielded him 4/25.
He could easily have had three yesterday afternoon. He won’t of course maintain his current average of 17.65, but the fact that comparisons to Josh Hazlewood don’t feel laughable is telling in itself.
It was Overton, who has something of the farmhand to him, who delivered the killing blow to the stunned animal. Jadeja’s “screw you” knock ended at 30, Buttler taking his third catch of the morning and eighth of the match, and Mohammed Siraj’s prod to Jonny Bairstow was nothing more than an emergent property of its environment.
England thoroughly deserved this victory, and so dominant was their position throughout that India’s best option might be to try and forget it ever happened. Speaking of things teams would like to pretend didn’t happen…over a year on from Azeem Rafiq going public about his treatment at the county he called home, the report into systemic racism sparked by Rafiq’s powerful testimony is expected any day now.
Yorkshire are believed to have had the report for a fortnight, and questions can be asked about why they were allowed to hold on to it until after their marquee Test.
There will be talk before the Oval Test begins on Thursday of Chris Woakes, of Jos Buttler’s second child, of R Ashwin, of whether Headingley will prove a blip or a terminal arresting of India’s momentum. These are discussions worth having, and they’re much more fun than Yorkshire and the game’s racial failings. But we’re selling ourselves short as coverers and lovers of cricket if we can’t hold both in our minds at the same time.