Ravi Jadeja dusts off his sword and shows the Test batsman he could become
"Ooh, Ravi Jadeja. Ooh Ravi Jadeja."
The Bharat Army sang as soon as Ravindra Jadeja cut Adil Rashid fiercely to get to his half century in his first innings of this series. Being Jadeja, the celebrations were memorable, too. Pointing to the Indian dressing room, Jadeja flashed his bat forward and as if it were a sword. He mock gestured as if he were just dusting off his sword and then swerved it proudly like a warrior. In the background you could see Jos Buttler, the hero of England's batting on Saturday, watching mildly surprised. Jadeja was making a bold statement not just to the opponent, but to his own: ignore him at your peril.
Four summers ago at Lord's, Jadeja had carved a cavalier half-century and unleashed his waving-the-sword celebrations to a standing ovation. That innings was instrumental in India's only win in that series.
This time Jadeja saved India a lot of blushes. He had resumed with debutant Hanuma Vihari in the morning with the primary responsibility of delaying what seemed inevitable overnight - England bowling India out and taking a huge lead. England did bowl India out, but well into the second session. And their lead had been hacked to 40 runs from overnight 158.
The one big reason India have lost this series is because England's lower order has hurt them significantly in four of the five Tests. At various stages Buttler, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes, in the company of the lower order have erased all the excitement constructed by India's fast bowlers. From being on the brink they have put England in winning positions. On Saturday, Buttler and Stuart Broad had frustrated India after they had been in charge at 198 for 7 at the end of the first day.
Unfortunately for India, their lower order had shown a weak spine. But here that changed, courtesy of Jadeja and debutant Vihari. Both men had a point to prove for different reasons. Jadeja had been overlooked in Southampton despite the pitch crying out for two spinners and doubts over R Ashwin's fitness. He had also been hurt when Kohli preferred Kuldeep Yadav to him in the second Test at Lord's despite the cold and seaming conditions not being favourable to spin at all. Vihari had been included as an extra batsman replacing allrounder Hardik Pandya, but he also jumped the competition and pipped Karun Nair, the other specialist batsman in the squad.
Playing time was the key, and both batsmen understood that quickly. Vihari had been nervous and shaky from the time he took guard. He had been trying to play at every ball. If England had reviewed an lbw shout he would have been out for nought. But this morning he calmed down. Both he and Jadeja would play and miss and be beaten on a few occasions by the movement James Anderson and Broad found early on. But as the minutes ticked by both batsmen looked settled and became more confident. Anything fuller and in his reach, Vihari drove fluently. Anything short and wide, Jadeja cut hard.
The run rate was slow, but England were starting to get frustrated. Eventually Vihari's vigil would come to an end, defeated by Moeen Ali to a ball that held its line after pitching in the rough. It was about 10 minutes before lunch. But Jadeja denied England any further joy.
The hallmark of Jadeja's innings was patience and shot selection - attributes he has been found wanting for in the past. Jadeja has multiple triple centuries in first-class cricket, but he has not been able to bring that to the fore on the international stage and he does not have a Test century. In the first hour of the morning Jadeja left alone 28 deliveries and defended 11. In the second hour he played 49 dot balls. Despite the slow run rate it was England who were restless.
A few overs after lunch Joe Root went for the second new ball. Jadeja had just lost Ishant Sharma and then Mohammed Shami, who was both careless and reckless to loft Rashid straight to long-on.
But this is where Jadeja was brave. If he was cautious in the morning, he realised he had to go for the jugular with last man Jasprit Bumrah for company. It did not matter he was now in ODI mode and slogging. He edged Anderson between the wide gap in the slips for a four and the lofted England's most senior seamer over the straight boundary for his first six. He would hook Broad for a four and then take a single to go the other end. The lead was down to 50.
Root had spread the field with just two slips inside the circle. Jadeja continued to hit and picked up another boundary as he charged Anderson to hit past deep midwicket and rush into the 80s. Root then moved Rashid into the circle from long-on. Jadeja would tonk over Rashid and collect two runs. Off the last ball Anderson fired in a short-pitched delivery into his ribs, but Jadeja tapped it quietly with his right hand to take a single and keep the strike. Jadeja's control against Anderson post lunch was 78 percent . His overall control against Moeen was 87 percent and his overall control against all bowling was 82 percent.
He found good support from Bumrah, who bravely negotiated a short-pitched barrage from Broad to play out a maiden over. Jadeja, too, would play out a maiden from Moeen, who was beating him by getting the ball to drift. Jadeja was 14 runs short of his first Test century. Possibly being in the vicinity of such a milestone distracted him.
In Moeen's next over, the first four balls were dots. Root brought the field in leaving just the long-on and deep point out. Jadeja played another dot. Root moved the two fielders from the deep into the circle. As Moeen got ready to deliver the final ball, nine Englishmen closed in on Jadeja to deny him the single. Jadeja moved outside the line of the delivery and flicked it to square leg and set off. Unfortunately for him Bumrah was slow off the blocks. Jadeja walked back to the dressing room with his head hanging low. He realised his mistake. For once he got carried away by his emotions of closing in on a maiden Test century.
The job is only half done. At the end of the first day's play Jadeja said the wanted to become a "trusted" allrounder in the India team across all formats. If he wants to earn the trust of his captain and coach, he needs to turn in a similar performance with the ball now. Ashwin had been a disappointment in Southampton. The pitch is breaking up once again, is slow and is taking turn. He has already hurt England with the bat. He now needs to hurt them with ball, and, possibly once more with the bat in the next two days.
Jadeja tempered patience with controlled aggression. In terms of balls faced this was the second-best knock by Jadeja after his 170-ball 90 in Mohali against England in the 2016-17 series. Jadeja finished as the Man-of-the-Match.
If India are still alive in this match it is because of Jadeja. He ought to be proud. Sunday at The Oval was a full house. Many had come to say "ThankYouChef" - to pay tribute to Alastair Cook and watch him play his final innings in international cricket. Many left singing "ooh, Ravi Jadeja. Ooh Ravi Jadeja."
Nagraj Gollapudi is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo