Right down to earth!

Chennai, February 9

Against all hopes, India failed to put up a fifth-day resistance against England in the first Test, getting bowled out for 192 to lose by a record margin of 227 runs.

The return of captain Virat Kohli did not prove auspicious for the team as India lost their fourth consecutive Test under him, having lost two in New Zealand in early 2020 and one in Australia in December.

James Anderson, who turns 39 in July and is on his fifth Test tour of India, put up an excellent spell of reverse-swing bowling, ending up with 3/17 in 11 overs. Kohli showed some grit but as wickets kept falling at the other end, the challenge of batting out the whole day proved too much for him as well as he was the eighth man out after making 72 runs.

A target of 420, 381 of it to be made on Day 5 on a worn-out track, was always going to be too much by any cricketing logic, and Anderson’s mid-morning burst blew away the Indian middle-order. That spell ensured that India could not replicate the Day 5 heroics of their recent Tests in Sydney and Brisbane.

Kohli (72 off 104 balls) seemed like a lonely general standing on the burning deck as he showed his colleagues how to bat on a difficult track. He covered the swing and shuffled towards the off-stump to counter Anderson, ran purposefully and scored his runs against spinners. But eventually, he also got an unplayable ball from Ben Stokes, which kept low and burst through his defences.

India now need to win two out of the next three Tests to qualify for the World Test Championship final in June.

Early reverses

Courtesy Anderson, the match became a mismatch within an hour in the morning, but left-arm spinner Jack Leach (4/76), who had been harshly punished in the first innings, finished with the best figures.

Leach removed Pujara with a ball that was identical to the one with which he got Rohit Sharma yesterday — bowled from around the wicket, it was angled in and spun across him from leg to off, and Pujara could only edge it to Ben Stokes at slip.

Anderson then showed his artistry with a semi-new ball and the Indian batting line-up, save Kohl, struggled against him. Shubman Gill looked dazzling as long as he was at the crease, hitting seven fours and a six, dealing with spinners comfortably. But then Anderson was brought into the attack for the first time today, in the day’s 14th over. Second ball, to Gill, was perfect — angled in, it also reverse-swung and Gill was late to close the gap between bat and pad and was bowled. Three balls later, Ajinkya Rahane got the same treatment — the ball reverse-swung and breached the vice-captain’s defence to knock back his stumps.

Rishabh Pant, with knocks of 91, 89*, 23, 97 and 23 in his five previous innings, got a four off Anderson and Leach, but was deceived by the wily fast bowler — Anderson came around the stumps at him and bowled a slower one, and Pant could only lob the ball off the leading edge to Joe Root at short cover.

From 92/2, Anderson’s burst had reduced India to 110/5 and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the batsmen succumbed. — TNS, agencies

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