After the high of Brisbane comes the low of Chennai — India lost the first Test of the series against England by a huge margin of 227 runs, getting bowled out for 192 in their second innings. India lasted only 58.1 overs as they chased an improbable 420 for victory. For the third Test in a row, Indian batsmen were expected to come up with an exceptional effort on Day 5 — in Sydney, they managed to eke out a draw with great defensive play, and in Brisbane, they achieved a remarkable victory with great aggression. However, playing with either defence or aggression on a deteriorating Day 5 Indian wicket is a very different proposition, with the ball turning and keeping low and fielders lurking close by to grab a catch. India lost nine wickets on the day in only 38 overs.
England deserve credit for their clinical performance. This outfit is one of the best-prepared visiting teams to land on India’s shores, having won 2-0 in Sri Lanka recently. Led by the exceptional Joe Root, they made the best possible use of the conditions after winning the toss and electing to bat first. Having piled up 578 runs on a wicket Ishant Sharma later described as flat as a ‘road’, with Root leading the way with a magnificent 218, England bowled India out for sub-par 337. Several Indian batsmen were guilty of playing loose strokes. After England set India a target that has never been achieved by any team in Test cricket, India’s hopes lay in the batsmen putting up a great defensive effort. That was not to be, though.
India’s defeat, the fourth straight under Virat Kohli, opens up the race to the final of the World Test Championship. New Zealand have already qualified for the final, and India can’t afford another loss — they must win the series 2-1 or 3-1 to make it. But England, who must win the series 3-1 or 3-0 or better to reach the final, have shown that they are ready for the Indian challenge. We are in for more exciting cricket over the next few weeks.