One would have expected England to put up some fight on Day 5 of the fifth and final Test against India at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai. Given that the Chepauk track has been a friendlier one for batting as compared to the ones in Mumbai and Vizag.
Instead, the visitors stuck to their gloomy script that not only ends their year on a disappointing note, but puts Alastair Cook's captaincy under the scanner as well. With a little over a day left after the end of India's first innings, in which they amassed a mountainous lead by putting up their highest-ever Test total, the hosts appeared on track to eke out a draw when Cook and Keaton Jennings fought hard to put up a century-opening stand.
When you have a world-class spinner in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin, as well as reliable options in Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra (who had it rather rough on the final day), you don't have much to worry about as a captain, except maybe setting the right field for your bowlers from time to time. Even though local boy Ashwin did not have the most memorable of outings in front of his home crowd (with the ball that is, as he brought up yet another fifty with the bat), one could always trust another member of the unit to step up on the occasion and deliver for his side.
On the final day of the Test, the man of the occasion happened to be Jadeja, who is no stranger to entertaining the Chennai crowd — having been a core member of the former Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Chennai Super Kings.
The final Test of the series was one that had its share of crests and troughs throughout the passage of play. The match would have had little impact on the outcome of the series, given that the series was already decided at the Wankhede. However, the Chennai crowd still needed their dose of cricket entertainment, given they had been given the short end of the stick in recent times. Witnessing Kohli and Co decimate their opponents to complete a one-sided scoreline would have acted as a balm for the residents of a city that had endured some tough times recently.
Let us now take a look at the five moments (one could expand its definition to a period of play) that helped shape the match into what it eventually turned into:
1. Stokes' early wicket on Day 2: England were 284 for the loss of four wickets at stumps on Day 1, and were looking to cross the 500-run mark with some solid batting on the second day's play. Moeen Ali was unbeaten on 120, having made the most of a dropped chance when he was batting on nil. However, Ashwin struck in the fifth ball of the day's play to get rid of Stokes for the fifth time in the series, inducing the batsman to move forward and get a leading edge to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel.
As he went back to the pavilion for a mere six, it turned the tide in India's favour momentarily. After Stokes' dismissal, Jos Buttler was rapped on the front pad by Ishant Sharma, and Moeen himself was bounced out a couple of overs later, as England suddenly collapsed to 321/7.
2. Karun Nair dropped twice: The Karnataka batsman did not have the best of starts to his Test career. Coming into the side after an injury to Wriddhiman Saha, an unfortunate run out on debut nearly cost him his place in the side.
However, he was persisted with after Ajinkya Rahane suffered an injury mid-way through the series, and was ruled out. Another poor outing in Wankhede later, Nair probably viewed Chennai as one last chance to make the most of the opportunity that one has to slog out for in the domestic circuit.
Nair’s effort of converting his maiden Test century into a triple century is one that not only would assure him of a place in the team for months to come, but also paved way for his entry into the record books.
However, none of that would have happened had Cook held on to a tough chance in the slips after the Delhi Daredevils batsman edged a Jake Ball delivery. Well, even Virender Sehwag had enjoyed a few strokes of luck when he became the first Indian to score a triple century, back in 2004 in Multan.
3. Cook relents after an astute display: England faced an uphill task as far as saving the Test was concerned. India declared right after Nair got to his triple ton, with India finishing on 759 for 7. With a few overs left on Day 4, an early wicket could have sent the visitors crumbling mentally.
However, Cook and Jennings put up a sturdy display with the bat, not only seeing out the remaining overs of the penultimate day but dominating an entire first session by putting up 97 runs for the opening wicket, with the partnership crossing the 100-run mark shortly after the interval.
All it took was a loss of concentration on the English captain’s part, as he glanced a quick, flat delivery from Jadeja straight into the safe hands of KL Rahul at leg slip. That was merely the beginning of England’s nightmare, as the visitors collapsed from 103/0 to 129/4.
4. Moeen’s wicket after tea: If the Englishmen had any semblance of hope after the dismissal of their top order, they pinned it all on the pair of Moeen and Stokes, who were batting on 32 and 13 respectively, as England went into the tea break on 167/4.
The duo added another 25 runs after the resumption of play, and one started to wonder if the pair would eventually guide the visitors to safety till the end of the day’s play. However, Moeen’s choice of shot selection — looking to loft Jadeja over long on, but failing to connect properly to hand Ashwin a catch for which he had to stretch out a bit – was an absolute brain fade.
It undid all their efforts in the last 30 minutes or so, with the tourists losing their next six wickets for just 15 runs to signal one final collapse in the marathon Test series. One final failure by the batting order that summed up what will go down as one of their worst tours in recent times.
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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2016 22:17:34 IST