When Alastair Cook called it right during the toss, there was a huge wave of joy which spread through the English camp, their supporters and the media. Cook had openly expressed the desire to bat first, put up a huge first innings total and then apply pressure on India who will have to cope with batting in the 4th innings. After all, the common notion is that this is how India always wins Test matches at home. Win the toss, put up a big score, have the opponents play catch up and unleash their spinners who wreak havoc during the last 2 days. Further, the England captain had gained significant confidence in this tactic after India’s uncertain batting display on the 5th day of the Rajkot test. Kohli’s boys though showed that they were a team which had enough skill to take the equation of ‘toss ‘out of the game and in the process registered what must be an extremely satisfying victory at the PCA stadium in Mohali.
Whenever you win the toss and opt to bat, the skipper expects his team to put up a huge first innings total. This requirement is amplified in subcontinental conditions as run scoring becomes exponentially difficult in the 3rd & 4th innings. That is perhaps where England lost the plot and possibly the match as a collective bowling effort from the hosts saw them slump to 268/8 on Day 1 and eventually fold up for 283. In reply, India were cruising at 148/2 before a tinge of madness along with one perfect googly saw them slip to 156/5. Kohli romped to another half century but when hell fell for 62, India were precariously placed at 204/6. England were breathing again and would have even hoped for a first innings lead. This is when the hosts’ spin trio took over and showed their prowess with the bat. Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav struck impressive half centuries to give India a vital 134 run lead. Ashwin was all class during his 113-ball innings which fetched him 72 runs. Jadeja faced more than 100 balls in a test innings for the first time but fell short of a well-deserved maiden test century by 10 runs. Jayant Yadav showed tremendous determination as he notched up his first test fifty to continue his fairytale beginning to test cricket.
England knew they had a mountain to climb. Their woes were exacerbated by a finger injury to Hameed which meant Root had to open along with his captain. Any hopes of an English fightback rested firmly on Cook’s shoulders. The captain’s majestic record clearly shows that he is one of the best foreign batsman to have laid foot in the subcontinent. Unfortunately, Cook was extremely tentative and was living dangerously. He survived 2 LBW reviews but almost immediately found his stumps shattered courtesy a beauty from India’s premier offie. Ashwin was again in business when he deceived Moeen Ali in the air and Yadav pouched the checked loft gleefully at mid-on. Yadav removed Bairstow and Ashwin came back to remove Stokes in the very last over of the day to leave England reeling at 78/4. It was almost too easy for the Indians on Day 4 as barring a fighting 59* from Hameed, none of the others held their own as the visitors set a meagre target of 103 for the hosts. Parthiv Patel hit a superlative 67* of just 54 deliveries as India romped home by 8 wickets to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. The next match will be played in Mumbai from December 8th and the Indians will be looking to seal the series with one game to spare.