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Spinners, Shami stitch up 246-run win for India

Wisden India logo Wisden India 21-11-2016
© Reuters Image

The frequency with which Stuart Broad had spoken the previous evening, of his own volition, of ‘saving the game’ had offered a fascinating insight into the defensive mindset of a team that has, in the last year and a bit, played a most attractive and entertaining brand of cricket.

What Broad said was a mere affirmation of the action that had unfolded on the fourth evening of the second Test at the ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium. Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed defended as if their lives depended on it, and did a wonderful job of it as well, but they had both the technical wherewithal and the strength of mind to do so.

It was always open to question if a majority of the rest of England’s batting line-up possessed the same qualities on an up-and-down surface against an Indian attack that is relentlessly ruthless when it smells blood. Those questions were answered decisively within the first session of Monday’s (November 21) final day’s play.

Scores: India: 455 & 204 beat England: 255 & 158 by 246 runs

Dealt a body blow in the form of the dismissal of Cook — their leader in every way imaginable – off the last delivery on Sunday evening, England resumed on 87 for 2, hope rather than conviction their steadfast ally. Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, the form batsmen this year, would have to be central figures if England were to, as Broad put it, save the game. For India, there was the potential for multiple heroes. The Indian camp would have had a far more restful night than their counterparts.

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja blew the game open inside the first three-quarters of an hour, and Jayant Yadav and Mohammed Shami then got into the act to pour freezing-cold water on any escape plans concocted within the opposition ranks. Using the increasingly deteriorating day-five strip as a favourable companion, India were all over England like a bad rash, eventually storming to a 246-run victory 20 minutes after lunch as England’s initially staunch but eventually feeble resistance when faced with a target of 405 ground to a halt at 158.

It was always going to be impossible to replicate the dead-batting exploits of Cook and Hameed, but England will be disappointed at how quickly the fight dissipated. Root did hang on resolutely and Bairstow, at long last, played a few strokes, but too much damage was done otherwise.

Ben Duckett’s immediate Test future must be in serious doubt after he was dismissed by Ashwin for the third time in the series, his task this time made even before difficult because he walked straight into top-quality spin right at the start of the day. He just doesn’t have an answer against Ashwin; the six balls he faced from the offspinner must have seemed an eternity to him. From the outside, it appeared as if Ashwin was toying with him a little, deciding which ball should have his name and finally settling on ball No. 33 of the day. Nervous and edgy throughout his 15-minute stay, Duckett essayed a half-hearted sweep to one that bounced a little more, took the gloves and lobbed up for Wriddhiman Saha to gleefully gobble up the offering.

© Reuters Image

By then, Virat Kohli had already put down Root at leg-slip, also off Ashwin, moving to his left with his upper body and therefore snatching at the inside-edge that flew to his right. Root had added just four to his overnight score of five, but it was never going to be a costly lapse despite who the beneficiary of the largesse was, even if Ashwin wouldn’t have taken kindly to being denied an early, huge strike.

Where Ashwin slipped into a nice rhythm from the Pavilion End, Jadeja enjoyed bowling into the rough outside the left-hand batsman’s off stump operating from the opposite end. The runs had all but dried up and rotation of strike appeared a remote thought – England might revisit their approach if they find themselves in a similar situation – and Kohli could stack the numbers around the bat. It was no surprise when Jadeja’s left-arm spin ended Moeen Ali’s stay, the ball spitting off the rough, taking the inside-edge and the pad, and lobbing gently for Kohli to make amends for his earlier lapse.

Energised by the two strikes and emboldened by Stokes testing out his new-found defensive prowess against spin, Ashwin and Jadeja wheeled away, getting through their overs quickly and ensuring that the score board remained static. By the time Kohli took them off in successive overs after the second new ball was claimed immediately when it was due, they had combined figures of 23.4-12-27-2 for the morning. Talk about choke.

Shami was outstanding from his first ball, quick and accurate and full and threatening, while Jayant didn’t look any the worse for not having had enough of a bowl on his debut. It was the second offie who snared the first of the big fish when he got the ball to drift into Stokes and then curl away. The batsman thought he had everything covered, but he didn’t perhaps bargain for the amount – or relative lack of it – of turn and played inside the line to see his off pole pegged back.

Slideshow: England surrender to spin as India take 1-0 lead

India vs England, 2nd Test: England surrender to spin as India take 1-0 lead: India completed a 246-run win over England in the second Test and took a 1-0 lead in the five-match series. India needed eight wickets on the final day to win the match but the bowlers picked up those wickets in just 38.1 overs. R Ashwin began the collapse on day five as he picked up the first wicket of the day. Ben Duckett fell once again to Ashwin, third time in the series, as England began the day on a bad note. (Source: Reuters) England surrender to spin as India take 1-0 lead

Shattered and disgusted with his error of judgement, Stokes had barely had time to take off his pads and pack his coffin when Root joined him in the changing-room. For some reason, the second new ball quickly went rogue and started to reverse by its fifth over. Shami produced a screaming inswinger, full and tailing in, to catch Root dead in front, the review from the batsman stemming from a wing and a prayer more than anything else.

Adil Rashid didn’t bother hanging around as Shami evicted him with a short delivery, raising visions of a first-session finish. Bairstow delayed the inevitable with handsome strokes off the back foot to make his wonderful form of 2016 count, but whatever he did wasn’t going to alter the eventual outcome.

It took India less than half an hour after lunch to polish things off, Jayant’s third wicket of the innings after India successfully challenged Kumar Dharmasena’s not out call against James Anderson rounding off a fantastic four and a bit days in the first Test at this venue. There were no outlandish celebrations by Kohli’s boys, just pats on the back at a job well done.

India will treasure this victory, their first against England at home in five Tests, because it was earned the hard way, with contributions from various different individuals with bat and ball. The result will not necessarily paper over all the cracks, but for the next couple of days at least, they can savour being 1-0 up with three to play, and then regroup and refocus. If they need any reminding, they were 1-0 up with three Tests left in England last year, and lost all remaining games. An encore, through complacency or mental easing off, can safely be ruled out.

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