India have very deservingly won their Test series against England 4-0. They are better than England. All the talk about them succeeding in overseas conditions or what the scoreline would be if this series was played in England are pointless guff. Man for man, bowler for bowler, fielder for fielder, batsman for batsman, captain for captain – India are better than England. That simple.
A really flat pitch meant that it would take a batting comedy classic for either team to lose the final Test of this five match series in Chennai, and England being the gracious visitors that they are, obliged. They could not have done it with better comic timing. They got through the first session with zero drama to go to lunch at 97 without loss. They then lost four wickets for 26 runs, and then six wickets for 15 runs in collapses that were hilariously awful. That 97 for none became 207 all out as England lost by an innings and 75 runs after making 477 in their first dig.
This match was a culmination of the difference between these sides in this series so far. England were out bowled, out fielded and and out batted by a team that is now undefeated in its last 18 matches, the most successful run of results ever put together by an Indian team. They are a long way short of the all time record of 27 matches without defeat set by the West Indies between 1982 and 1984, but Virat Kohli’s team have been bossing Test cricket for the last 18 months. They still have five more home Tests before they next play overseas, and it is very hard to see them losing any of those. If they manage that, it would be the third most successful run in Test history.
India are clearly the best Test side in the world right now. They will be delighted to have avenged their Test series defeats to England in 2012 at home and 2014 away. This young team will have had few scars from those losses, but any that did exist, have been healed. For England, they will be very glad that their long winter of Test cricket in Asia has come to an end. But this is an appalling defeat.
Conceding a triple hundred and the highest team total ever made against England in this Test is just another example of how thin their bowling resources are in these conditions. It is the job of the County Championship to produce Test cricketers, and it has been successful at that over the last 15 years, but it does not produce players that are going to succeed in Asia on a regular basis. Games of first-class cricket are primarily played when pitches are damp in April and May and when the ball swings in September. The reasons for this are sound, but it does have drawbacks, and those are most visible when England tour Asia.
England’s spinners have done okay; 23 wickets for Adil Rashid and 10 for Moeen Ali represents a reasonable return for them. Neither of them will be crowing about their average though, but they did get people out. The issue was that while there were wickets, there was little control. That was writ large in this match as India could score as many runs as they liked.
The last session on the fourth day saw India score 177 runs in 35.4 overs for the loss of just two wickets. India plundered runs at five an over but did not have to take undue risks to do so. England were humbled, Karun Nair stood over them as a victor collecting his spoils as Kohli allowed him to bat on to make a triple hundred. 759 for seven is the most runs India have ever made in a Test innings. If they had been so inclined, they could have been the first team to score 1000. In the end they batted on far longer than they would have if the series had been up for grabs, but with three of the first four matches already won, there was no need to pull out earlier than they did.
That extra Indian batting on the evening of Day four should have made this game safe for England. They had 10 wickets to play with and 90 overs to bat. A simple enough task on a pitch that was turning out of the rough, but still pretty straightforward to bat on. There is no way England should have lost this game on the last day, but cricket is a game that is primarily played in the space between your ears and England are clearly completely shot mentally.
Before the Mumbai Test, only three teams had scored 400 in their first innings and then lost by an innings. England have now done that twice in two weeks. The 477 that England made in their first innings is the highest score ever made by a team that has lost by an innings. Ever. Quite simply, once you have made the best part of 500 runs batting first, you should not lose a Test, and you certainly shouldn’t lose by an innings and 75 runs.
The focus will now be on the recriminations that should quite rightly follow such an embarrassing set of results. Everyone should be spoken to about what went wrong and what could have been done better. It is unlikely that anything this squad or management team could have done that would have reversed this series result, but that does not mean these humbling defeats should not be dissected.
The most pressing issue will inevitably the captaincy of Alastair Cook which has been so poor that it is difficult to justify him continuing. He has already said he will not make any decisions about his future until he sits down with the ECB bosses in the New Year, and that is fine. Rushed decisions are rarely good ones. Quite what Cook continuing in a job he clearly no longer enjoys does for him and English cricket is unclear, but if you were to draw up a list of the reasons why England lost this series, Cook’s captaincy wouldn’t make the top 10.
There is one thing England can take from today. They have lost two matches in a row where they made over 400 batting first and then lost by an innings. That is a record that will stand for all time. That is a silver lining if ever there was one.
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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2016 17:50:03 IST