India vs England, 3rd Test: Alastair Cook and Co were out-thought, not just outplayed in Mohali
If England are to even draw this series, they need to have a performance that bears no resemblance to what they showed in Mohali, where they were out-bowled, out-batted and out-thought.
Loads of words are used to describe a bad defeat. Chastening. Embarrassing. Disheartening. Bleak. This match in Mohali was all of those things for the visitors, because England are a better team than this. This tour was always going to end in defeat; with these teams playing on these pitches there was only one side that had the ability to win matches on a consistent basis. India are a phenomenal team at home (and an improving one when playing away.) England are talented, and fearsome competitors outside Asia, but them repeating their stunning win in late 2012 was always unlikely.
In order for them to come close to that. they needed to score big runs in the first innings, something that they spectacularly failed to do when given the chance to bat first in Mohali having won the toss. This game was effectively over as a contest when England found themselves 87 for four before lunch on Day 1. The last time a visiting team scored under 300 in their first innings and won in India, was South Africa in December 2000. The last time England won in India after making less than 300 in their first innings was in February 1980.
First innings runs are king in India, and England’s 283 was never enough on the best pitch that we have seen in this series so far. 350 was the minimum they needed, 400 was par.
If it wasn’t for Johnny Bairstow it could have been worse, as he continued his remarkable 2016. He now has 1355 runs in 2016, the most ever made by a wicketkeeper in a single year. He is now in touching distance of Michael Vaughan’s record for the most runs by an Englishmen in a calendar year, with two matches still to play before we reach 2017; Vaughan made 1481 runs in 2002. In this match, Bairtsow’s 89 was the only reason England were not shot out for under 200 on the first day of a Test on a pitch that had enough decent pace and bounce that run-scoring should have been relatively straightforward.
Remarkably, almost inexplicably, in the hour after tea on Day 2, England brought themselves into this match. Having so meekly surrendered the chance to set the pace in this game with their batting efforts, England took four wickets in a crazy hour to reduce India to 204 for six. If they had managed to bowl them out for under 300, something that was within their grasp when that sixth wicket fell, there was a chance to turn this into a one innings Test.
Then England had a truly awful third day that saw them start with a small lead and four Indian wickets still to take, and finish four wickets down and still behind India on first innings. If England lost this Test with their batting on the first day, they ensured that the defeat would be embarrassingly large on Day 3. Cook’s captaincy was at its worst as he struggled to work out who he should bowl when, and like an enthusiastic but inept sudoku player he put all the wrong numbers in all the wrong boxes.
Gareth Batty bowled too much, Moeen Ali and James Anderson didn’t bowl enough, Adil Rashid was brought out of the attack when he should have been left to bowl, and Ben Stokes pummelled his body through 26 overs on his way to a five wicket haul. The first hour of Day 3 was an opportunity for England to replicate the intensity that had brought them success the evening before, instead they bowled badly and allowed Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to take the game away from them yet again.
Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant Yadav all batted brilliantly for their half centuries, but England were culpable in making it straightforward for them. India added 213 runs for their last four wickets, and in doing so they extinguished the glimmer of hope that England had generated on the second evening. The match would play out to a predictable conclusion.
Joe Root battled in the last innings, scoring 78 batting as an opener due to Haseeb Hameed’s injured finger, but he had no support from the top order as England lost their fourth wicket for less than 100 for the second time in this match.
Hameed eventually wandered out to bat at eight and didn’t seem to be unduly hampered by his damaged little finger as he played his usual patient game on his way to 59 not out from 156 deliveries.
The question will be if Hameed can go into a Test with this injury or if England need find a replacement. It would take stubbornness that would be impressive even for this England management team to go back to Gary Ballance or Ben Duckett, but they might. If they don’t pick from the current squad the two best openers in Division One of the County Championship in 2016 were Keaton Jennings, son of former South African coach Ray Jennings, and Nick Gubbins. There is a more than a week before the start of the next Test so there is time for a decision to be made.
Hameed’s half century was one of brilliant resilience, and as he increased his scoring rate to the point where he brought up his half century with a six, it made you wonder why he had been pushed down the order. If he can’t play in Mumbai, it will be a massive blow for England. He was once again the bright spot amongst the English gloom. The boy can play.
India eventually won by eight wickets and now lead the series 2-0 with two matches to play. England could theoretically retain the Pataudi Trophy by winning the final two matches of this series, but if they are to even get a draw in Mumbai or Chennai, they need to have a performance that bears no resemblance to what they showed in this Test where they were out-bowled, out-batted and out-thought.
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