India Vs England Test Cricket: Ashwin And Rohit Star In India’s Mammoth Win, WTC Series Levelled 1-1!

 


India have won the second World Test Championship (WTC) Series cricket Test against England by a mammoth margin of 317 runs just after lunch on the fourth day at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai, and squared the series at 1-1. Chennai was the venue for the first test too that the visitors won by 227 runs. This victory has taken India back to the second position and England back to the fourth in the WTC points table with the hosts needing to win the series 2-1 or 3-1 for an almost secure place in the final to be played in Southampton instead of Lord’s due to the COVID situation in England in June, 2021.

 

The first thing that comes to the mind about this test is the sterling performance of bowling all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin who has achieved the distinction of capturing five wickets and a century in the same match, for the third time as per records, and is now among the very few bowling all-rounders of the world of test cricket to have achieved this honor.  He bowled magnificently in England’s first innings achieving a fiver at 5-43 thus helping his team’s rout of England as the visitors were all out for a paltry 134 runs, conceding a match-defining lead of 195 runs. In India’s second innings Ashwin batted brilliantly in captain Virat Kohli’s company at a crucial juncture of the innings. With incredible support from the last man Mohammad Siraj, Ashwin completed a most well-deserved ton and ensured an almost unassailable target of 482 runs for the visitors. In all, Ashwin captured 8 scalps. And, his fans watched this in ecstasy as spectators were allowed in this match at half-capacity.

 

Opener Rohit Sharma did what Joe Root did in the first test, attacking the bowlers from the word go after Kohli won the toss this time and elected to bat. With the team’s scoring rate of over 4 at times, Rohit hit 18 fours and 2 sixes in his priceless innings of 161 runs. He stood firm in an attacking mood as India faltered again and again, first losing Shubman Gill for a duck and then the captain for another duck. Thanks to his innings India finally scored a total of 329 runs which did not seem to be enough in view of England’s first innings score of 578 in the first test. However, India’s spin trio of Ashwin, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav ensured that it was more than enough.

 

After failures in the first test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane gave company to a rampaging Rohit in a crucial partnership with his individual score of 67 runs. Continuing with his incredible run with the bat since Australia Rishabh Pant scored 58 quick runs to help India cross the 300-run mark. Cheteshwar Pujara, called the Rock after Rahul Dravid, could not achieve much in this match, scoring 21 and 7 respectively in both of the innings. Virat Kohli batted with class in the second innings building a partnership with Ashwin that took the match away from England. Virat scored 62 runs.

 

Left-arm orthodox spinner Axar Patel, in his Test debut, bowled brilliantly capturing a total of 7 wickets that included a spectacular fiver in England’s second innings which contributed toward England folding up for just 164 and conceding defeat by 317 runs. After a little indecision in the first test India seemed to have hit the right spinner-combination, and this trio is going to cause the visitors a persistent headache in the remaining two tests. Swing duo of Ishant Sharma and Siraj have also combined well to keep the visitors under a tight leash.

 

The decision to rest India’s number one strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah raised a lot of questions, particularly from cricket legend Gavaskar. However, in hindsight this decision proves to be an intuitive one: first, it was important to give Siraj, emerging as a strike bowler for India, a chance, and in view of the expected turn in the two-match old pitch and the selection of the spinner trio, it seemed to be a practical idea to rest Bumrah; second, the decision is even intuitive as Siraj eventually put up an eye-catching batting display allowing, crucially, Ashwin to complete his century.  

 

England played poorly in all departments of the game, particularly batting with no batsmen showing the resolve to stick on and achieve what Root did in the first test, except for the occasional hiccups that their bowlers were able to give India in both of the innings. They sorely missed the services of fast bowlers Jofra Archer and James Anderson: the former was dropped because of injury, but dropping Anderson was a mystery after his swashbuckling performance in the first test.  Dropping of successful spinner Dom Bess was another mystery.

 

In all, India played to their true potential this time showing the class of their batsmen and bowlers under pressure. I agree fully with Boria Majumdar, cricket expert, when he said to a private news channel that India is a champion team and should always try to play to their class and potential, instead of giving their fans the shocks in the beginning of almost every series, like that of 36 all out against Australia and the first test blues against England.

 

The insistent talk about the Chennai pitch turning from the second day has not been fully corroborated, because India scored more than double to that of England, 286 in their second innings to England’s 134 in the first innings. This is clearly a case of class display versus poor performance. In the first Test India did poorly in all departments of the game. The pitch has indeed been helpful to spinners from the first test, but, for that matter, both team had able spinners to shine.

 

From here on the challenge for the visitors is going to only mount as the hosts seem to have got back their winning spirit, realized the potential and achieved the right ‘champion’ combination. Next, the pink-ball day-n-night third Test match starts at the Motera, Ahmedabad from the 24th of February, and the fourth and last Test from 3rd March. The Motera pitch is a toss between a bowler-friendly and a slower one. Bumrah is sure to come back in view of the ‘twilight seam’ factor in the next match, and in that case one of the spinners could be rested. Besides, injured seamers Mohammad Shami and Navdeep Saini have reportedly recovered. In fact, the official squad for the two remaining Tests is yet to be declared, and the BCCI is also expected to announce the squad for the five-match T20 Series too that starts in Ahmedabad from 12th March.

 

With avid Indian cricket fans allowed to join, in half stadium capacity though, the players from the second Test onward, Team India’s spirit is sure to soar to much higher altitudes.

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