Tom Hartley described his match-winning performance as “unbelievable” after one of the greatest overseas wins in England’s history.
The left-arm spinner claimed a magnificent seven to down India in the first Test at Hyderabad and complete a classic comeback.
Earlier in the match Hartley had seen his first ball as a Test cricketer launched for six, but he showed huge reserves of steel to bounce back with stunning figures of seven for 62 in the fourth innings to seal a dramatic 28-run victory.
The unheralded 24-year-old, selected for this trip as a hunch pick, came into the match with a career-best haul of five for 52 for Lancashire and left it a hero after he wrapped up the last wicket in the final over of the fourth day.
Hartley told TNT Sports: “It’s unbelievable, it’s not going to sink in for a while I think. I’m over the moon to be honest.”
Hartley’s second-innings performance was a turnaround from the first innings, where he picked up two wickets for 131 runs, but he praised the England coaches for their support.
He added: “It was really tough out there, it didn’t spin quite as much as we thought (in the first innings) but testament to the coaches, (Ben) Stokesy and Baz (Brendon McCullum), they really got around me and I lost no confidence really.
“I was able to come out and do my best out here. It’s fantastic in that dressing room we can have a great day, have a really bad day and it’s the same vibe in there.
“They’re always ultra-positive and it’s a fantastic dressing room, one of the best I’ve been in to be honest.”
Speaking about his batting, Hartley said: “Obviously I was really nervous to start, but getting a few runs always helps so I put my nervousness at ease a bit and I found out a few things about the pitch which helped with my bowling as well.”
England looked on course for a thumping defeat after conceding a 190-run first-innings deficit but refused to back down with bat or ball and condemned India to just a fourth home defeat in over a decade.
Ollie Pope provided the platform with a heroic 196, leaving India with a tough chase of 231 on a worn pitch, and with lead spinner Jack Leach restricted by a knee injury Hartley stepped up in unforgettable fashion.
England captain Ben Stokes felt the victory is his “greatest triumph” since taking the captaincy.
He said: “I think since I’ve taken the captaincy on we’ve obviously had a lot of great moments as a team, we’ve had a lot of great victories, we’ve been involved in some amazing games. But I think where we are and who we’re playing against, this victory is probably 100 per cent definitely our greatest triumph since I’ve been captain.”
The England captain also believes Pope’s 196 is “the greatest innings” to have been played on the sub-continent by an English batter.
Stokes said: “That whole innings, 190 on such a difficult wicket – he was able to manipulate the field with sweep shots, reverse sweeps, normal sweeps, the way he was able to rotate the strike.
“For me I think that’s the greatest innings that’s ever been played in the sub-continent by an English batsman.”
India captain Rohit Sharma praised Pope’s 196, describing it as “a brilliant knock” and believes his side did not bat well enough to reach the target.
Speaking at the post-match presentation, Sharma said: “The cricket has been played over four days, so hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong.
“Obviously having the lead of 190 we thought we were very much in the game, but exceptional batting, probably one of the best I’ve seen in Indian conditions by an overseas batter, Ollie Pope played a brilliant knock.
“I thought 230 was getable. There wasn’t too much in the pitch, but obviously we didn’t bat well enough to get to the score.
“When you finish the day you analyse what went well, what didn’t go well and things like that. You’ve got to take your hat off and say well done to Ollie Pope, that was some serious knock that.”