Since India played four pacers at Lord’s last week, the wickets got distributed and no Indian pacer returned with five wickets in an innings.
But that was not so in the 2014 Lord’s Test win under MS Dhoni. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma had taken six and seven wickets in an innings respectively then.
India’s first away Test win after being put in came when they recorded their first ever series win away at Auckland in 1968. But it was sans a five-wicket haul.
Kapil Dev walked away with the honour of five-for during the MCG victory in 1981 when India were asked to bat first by Greg Chappell – a Test in which captain Sunil Gavaskar wanted to walk away literally.
When a captain elects to bowl first, generally a pacefriendly wicket or overcast conditions are expected. Hence it’s not surprising that no Indian spinner contributed with a five-wicket haul in 13 such wins, the best being Ashwin’s four in the second innings of the 2015 Colombo Test. Ishant had taken five wickets in the first innings of that Test.
Besides Lord’s in 2014, India’s Test wins at North Sound 2019 (Ishant and Bumrah) and Nottingham 2018 (Hardik Pandya and Bumrah) had seen two pacers taking five-wicket hauls. Bumrah thus has a total of three five-wicket hauls in such winning causes once you add his exploits at Kingston in 2019. Bhuvi added to his 2014 Lord’s feat when he sparkled during the Gros Islet win in 2016 with five wickets.
Like Auckland 1968, there were no five-wicket hauls by an Indian after they won Tests losing the toss and batting first: at Durban (2010), Chittogram (2010) and Port of Spain (2002). Even Zaheer Khan has a five-wicket haul when the above condition is met (Dhaka 2007).
After the 1981 Melbourne Test until the 2002 Port of Spain Test, India were inserted in 15 Test matches away and won none (lost 10, drawn 5). However, starting with the 2002 Port of Spain Test, India have won 10 of 24 Tests (lost 11, drawn 3) away when the home captain asked them to bat first, a clear sign of India’s greater will to win away and having a wellrounded attack to do so. Before the 1981 Melbourne Test, India had won one of six away Tests (lost 4, drawn 1) when batting first after losing the toss.
It rarely happens that a visiting captain wins the toss and decides to field first in Tests in India. Of such eight Tests, India won none, drew six and lost two, both defeats coming against Australia: Mumbai 2001 and Kolkata 1969.
With fourth innings batting more challenging in India, even an India captain winning the toss and choosing to field first happens rarely. Out of 142 tosses that India won in home Tests, they chose to field first only 13 times – that is just once in about 11 Tests on an average; winning two games, losing four and drawing 7.
This team’s lack of series wins in New Zealand and South Africa notwithstanding, Kohli’s men have clearly improved their stakes significantly away from home. Of the last nine Tests when India have lost the toss away (regardless of batting first or second), they have won five and drawn two; the two defeats coming only in New Zealand.
With no defeats and three wins (Lord’s, Brisbane and Melbourne) in their last five such Tests, India have posed a greater headache for the opposing captain. If the hosts bat first, they have to negotiate India’s quality pace attack on the first day; and if they field first and don’t outbat India in the first innings, they face a tricky task of chasing a target against India’s double barrage (verbal and cricketing).
It won’t be a surprise if Joe Root is praying that India win the toss in the third Test at Headingley, next Wednesday.