Chasing a 420-run target, India were bundled out for 192 runs in their second innings, as wickets fell like nine pins to some great reverse swing by James Anderson (3/17) and fine spin bowling by Jack Leach (4/76).
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To chase a 420-run target was highly improbable but given the resilience and fightback shown on the recent tour of Australia, no one would have expected the Indians to be humbled this way on home soil.
The difference may lie in the pitches. The surfaces in Australia were true to bounce and played well throughout the five days. India drew the Test in Sydney where the pitch didn’t deteriorate as expected and in Brisbane also the ball was coming onto the bat nicely. But that’s where the dust bowls in India are different from the rest of the world. On a Day 5 Chepauk track, while some balls turned sharply and beat the batsmen on the bounce, some deliveries stayed low testing the technique of the Indian batsmen to the hilt.
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Cheteshwar Pujara, who had stonewalled the Aussie attack into submission, was the first wicket to fall on the final day when Jack Leach got a delivery to turn and bounce sharply taking an edge off Pujara’s bat and going straight into the hands of Ben Stokes at first slip. Pujara’s dismissal for 15 brought Indian captain Virat Kohli to the crease.
But the biggest factor on Day five was Anderson. The 38-year-old veteran showed why he’s still the best exponent of reverse swing bowling in the world.
The England pace spearhead broke the back of the Indian batting when he clean bowled Shubman Gill (50) and Ajinkya Rahane (0) in one over. In fact, Anderson dismissed Rahane twice off consecutive balls. He trapped the Indian vice-captain plumb in front but the appeal was turned down. England took the review and the replays showed the ball was going on to hit the stumps, but Rahane survived due to the umpire’s call rule.
Undeterred, Anderson bowled a superb inswinger that went through Rahane’s bat-pad gap and the off-stump was sent cartwheeling.
Rishabh Pant scored 11 runs before he was foxed by a slower delivery from Anderson bowling from round the wicket. Pant looked to flick through mid-wicket, but was early in the shot and got a leading edge which was gobbled up by Joe Root at short cover.
When Washington Sundar fell to Dom Bess for a duck, whatever little hopes India had for victory or a draw simply began to vanish.
Kohli kept one end up and brought up his 24th Test fifty after lunch in the company of Ravichandran Ashwin.
Leach got another delivery to turn and bounce and it took the edge off Ashwin’s bat for Jos Buttler to take the catch and reduce India to 171/7.
The final nail in the coffin was Virat Kohli’s wicket when his off-stump was uprooted by a Ben Stokes’ delivery that kept low enough to beat the Indian captain. Kohli’s vigil ended after 72 runs with 9 hits to the fence.
Not taking anything away from the efforts from the Indians in Australia, but the team selection for the first Test against England was a bit surprising.
Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, who did so well in Australia, were carrying drinks. Back in the Indian playing XI was Ishant Sharma, who looked rusty after making a comeback from injury. True, Ishant got to 300 wickets but he looked as rusty as it could get, reaching the 300-wicket milestone in 98 matches, the slowest in Test cricket history.
Axar Patel was ruled out on the first morning of the Test, and Shahbaz Nadeem was drafted in the squad, even though India had Kuldeep Yadav in the squad. Nadeem took 2 wickets each in both the innings but looked out of sorts throughout the Test. The reason given by the Indian think-tank of drafting in Nadeem was that he is a better batsman than Kuldeep. Nadeem fell for ducks in both the innings.
With the second Test starting on Saturday at the same venue, Team India will have to put in some serious thought into their playing XI combination as they find themselves 0-1 down at home with three Tests to play.