India v England: Five Indian heroes from Chennai Test
India completed their biggest win against England within three and half days at the MA Chidambaram Stadium to make the series 1-1 with two more Test matches to go. The 317-run win is also India’s 15th win on this ground, the highest for any ground in their history. Although the comeback was on the back of some good teamwork and combined effort, here are the five key players who made their mark for India in the second Test.
This Test match can very well be called ‘Ashwin’s Test match. The local boy did not only pick up 8 wickets for just 96 runs to push the English batsmen to backfoot; he also showed his ability to play spin with a memorable Test century on a third-day pitch with enough mystery.
In any home Test match, the lanky off-spinner is expected to play a match-winner’s role. And this time, the expectation was even more as India was already 0-1 behind. Ashwin opened the bowling with Ishant Sharma in England’s first innings and got his first victim, Dom Sibley, within his first four overs. There were no looking back after that as he picked up Dan Lawrence, Ben Stokes, Olly Stones, and Stuart Broad to get his 29th fifer in Test cricket.
What came next was more thrilling as he silenced all the critics of the ‘Chennai pitch’ with his fifth Test century batting at number 8. He developed a key partnership with captain Virat Kohli and played multiple sweep shots to show how to bat on such a wicket. He got good support from number eleven, Mohammed Siraj, who held one end and ensured that his senior team member could reach his hundred.
Thanks to Ashwin’s innings, the match was beyond England’s reach as they had to chase 482 runs for a win. Ashwin picked three more wickets in the second innings, including Stokes for the second time. Now he has dismissed the English all-rounder 8 times in the Test and started to have a mental advantage against him. He was awarded the man-of-the-match in front of the elated home crowd who gave a hero’s reception to the local boy.
Scoring 161 runs on a pitch facing a lot of backlash for being ‘spin-friendly’ from day one was not an easy job. Rohit also had to handle the pressure of being 0-1 behind in the series and also losing key players like Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill for ducks. Still, the batting craft he displayed with his stroke play was a top effort, and at times, it looked like he was batting on a different pitch compared to others.
He scored 80 runs before lunch on day one and ensured that India did not lose the momentum despite losing three key wickets. He later steadied the innings with Ajinkya Rahane and put India on the driver’s seat. He should consider this as his best Test knock, especially because England could score only 134 and 164 as a team in their two innings.
Virat Kohli got a duck in the first innings, and his astonished reaction was a key talking point on day one. However, he made a strong comeback in India’s second innings and provided an entertaining show on how to bat on a raging turner. Even in the second innings, the Indian team was losing quick wickets, but Kohli did not let that bother him and kept playing his natural game. He got an able ally in Ravichandran Ashwin, with whom he added 96 runs. Kohli batted for more than three hours to score 62, which is a better inning than many of his hundreds.
He also captained pretty well, and some of the fielding placements showed thinking and proper strategy behind those. He was also criticised for his slight altercation with the umpire during England’s second innings, but it was more of his frustration in not getting the decision in his team’s way than anything. With this win, he recorded 21 Test wins at home as a skipper and currently is in the joint top spot with MS Dhoni.
Axar Patel had a dream start of his Test career. The left-arm spinner already played 38 ODI and 11 T20Is for India but made his Test debut in this series. Originally, he was supposed to debut in the first Test, but a knee injury meant he had to wait for the second Test to recover and play.
But he took the chance when it came, with both hands, and ended with 7 wickets in the match for just 100 runs. After picking up 2/40 in the first innings, he picked up 5/60 in the second innings and became just 9th Indian bowler to pick up a five-wicket haul on their debut Test. He showed great control and good variations to bring the downfall of his opposition. He also picked up Joe Root in both the innings, the biggest weapon for England in these conditions.
Axar might not have been considered if Ravindra Jadeja would have been fit in the first place. But in a way, he has played the exact same role as Jadeja. He should give lots of comfort to the team management, who can use him as a like-to-like replacement for Jadeja in the future for injuries or any other break for his load-management.
For the last few months, Rishabh Pant has been one of the most talked-about Indian cricketers, and he truly showed his all-round class and ability in the last Test. Coming to bat late on day one, Pant added quickfire 33 and remained unbeaten at the end of day’s play.
The next morning, he continued to play shots and took India’s total to 329. In the end, he ran out of his partner and remained unbeaten on 58. After the valuable knock, fans were more interested to see his wicket-keeping in such a tasing pitch. Pant’s keeping is still needing some work, but he showed improvement and grabbed two great catches off the seamers, attempting fantastic dives both times.
He showed even better glovework in the second innings and kept particularly well off the spinners. Not only he managed to complete couple of great stumpings, but he also showed good technique and performed some great takes despite the turn and bounce. This Test is a memorable one for Pant and should give him enough confidence to keep well against the spinners in the last two Test matches.