The one significant characteristic that separated the teams in the Mumbai Test was application. India, through skipper Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jayant Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin and the others showed how it should be done, while England, with all the luck in the world, failed to grasp the essence of battling it out in non-favourable conditions.
England, when they won the toss on a pitch guaranteed to deteriorate, unhesitatingly opted to bat first and rattled up a very impressive first innings total of 400. They had won the initial battle and thus held all the cards. They had occupied the high ground from where they could have dictated the course of the match.
However, two factors went against them: the Indian cricketers’ remarkable self-belief under pressure and their own lack of it.
This was to manifest itself in other areas too. For instance, when England’s two spinners had been thwarted successfully to the extent that they were bowled to the ground, skipper Alastair Cook did not seem to have confidence in the ability of his pacemen on this surface.
On the other hand, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli and Yadav blunted the spinners and when they grew tired, picked easy runs off them. The fast bowlers, probably disheartened by the lack of help from the surface and their own skipper’s lack of confidence in their ability to reverse-swing the ball, attempted to bowl restrictively, but were ineffective.
The crucial phase of the Test was undoubtedly the third day. That was when either side could have jostled to gain the upper hand and as such, it was the most intense day of Test match action.
The teams were aware of it. But where India scored was in application. Pujara and Vijay had shown during the previous evening that there was scope for high-class grafting even if Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali were getting the ball to grip and turn on the surface. The important thing on the third day was, therefore, to blunt the duo and at the same time plunder runs whenever the tired bowlers erred.
England attacked Kohli as soon as he came into bat early on the third day. But the seasoned professional that he is, Kohli profitably stroked the ball into gaps in the outfield to not only boost his and the team’s confidence, but also frustrate the rival bowlers.
Vijay’s hundred, meanwhile, was brilliant and proved why he is India’s best opener at the moment. He played the spinners with uncanny precision. In between stoic defence, he would every now and then step out to loft the bowlers into vacant gaps and this flummoxed them.
But he, like Pujara, Kohli and Yadav also made known that their wicket had to be earned. None of these four was going to throw away his wicket with airy-fairy shots however tough the going turned out to be.
This was exactly the mindset skipper Kohli wanted. Despite losing a clutch of wickets he not only kept his cool but also inspired newcomer Yadav to give it his best shot.
At 364 for 7, India were precariously placed. But Kohli and Yadav responded magnificently to the challenge. Their cool composure under immense pressure was unbelievable. Their application along with astonishing self-belief on a wearing pitch not only rattled the visitors, but also destroyed their spirit.
The 241-run stand was champagne stuff. All the hard work had been done on the third afternoon. On the fourth morning they just had to ram home the advantage and this Kohli and Yadav did in supreme style.
The 231 runs lead India eked out on this pitch laid waste the Englishmen. This showed in the visitors' batting. When in trouble they tried to hit out against the spinners and the approach certainly did not inspire confidence in the rest of the team.
Ashwin who has been bowling fabulously of late, came away with a match haul of 12 wickets. He ran through the innings on the fifth morning, bagging all four wickets. His haul of 6 for 55 brilliantly complemented his first innings haul of 6 for 112.
Thus England, who were at one stage in a strong position in the Test, were ultimately routed by an innings and 36 runs. It was a fantastic turnaround of fortunes and will long be memorable for Kohli’s magnificent double century, Yadav and Murali’s combative centuries and the mesmerising bowling of Ashwin.
England are 0-3 down, have nothing to look forward to in the five-Test series. They had lost badly in Bangladesh and here, at the end of the fourth Test in India, look a broken side. The only silver lining is the batting of debutant Keaton Jennings.
Nevertheless, if anything, the Chennai Test starting this weekend will further reemphasise the India’s overwhelming superiority in skill and application. More power to their arm.
Updated Date: Dec 12, 2016 13:01:59 IST