Approaching the stroke of lunch last Tuesday, the visiting England team would most likely have been looking forward to relishing a scrumptious meal secure in the knowledge that it was only moments away from wrapping up a deserving victory in the first Test.
The following Tuesday, at precisely lunch time again, England was staring at the none too enticing prospect of swallowing the bitter pill of a looming defeat, while India was delighting in its opponent’s misfortune, having successfully plotted its downfall using spin as its most potent weapon.
Indeed, the troika of Indian spinners led by the peerless R Ashwin, who made an indelible impact on the outcome with bat and ball, debutant Axar Patel, and chinaman operator, Kuldeep Yadav, returning after a prolonged period in the wilderness, accounted for all 10 English wickets to fall in the fourth innings.
England’s capitulation, in both innings, has exposed its vulnerability to high-quality spin and its critics may argue that had the coin toss landed in India’s favour in the first Test, the result may have been similar to the second match. Whereas former Australia captain Steve Waugh had a red rag in his pocket while batting, it looked like England’s wobbly top-order, comprising Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Dan Lawrence, stepped out to bat accompanied by a white flag and at the first sign of crisis, they invariably turned to their inspirational skipper, Joe Root, to save their team’s blushes.
But as it turned out, Root endured a rare failure both times he batted and the innings soon caved in with the batsmen sucked into a hole from which there was to be no escape. As if that were not enough, one of England’s few bright spots in this match, Moeen Ali, has decided to cut short his stay and fly back home. The reason he cited was that he had grown weary of living in a bio-secure bubble, but he has indicated his willingness to return for the white-ball leg of the tour starting in mid-March.
Root, understandably, cut a forlorn figure in the aftermath of a gut-wrenching defeat and shared his thoughts with the media. Excerpts On the toss factor: It was a challenging wicket. The toss was an important one to win, but it wouldn’t guarantee a win either. India showed that you can score runs on it and found a way of managing the tricky surface On how the series is poised: We are still very much in the series. We played three brilliant games coming into the Test match. We are very much alive and kicking. It’s a bit of an education. We’ve got to quickly learn from this because sometimes these are the conditions that you come up against
On his team’s batting failure: We have been very good at learning quickly. It is important that we take that forward again. Not many times our guys would have batted on a surface like this. Our batters need to learn how to rotate the strike better on challenging surfaces On Stokes being under-bowled: Stokes is fine and fit to play. It was a tactical decision not to bowl more than the two overs that he did. Because of the wicket, there was a minimal amount of seam bowling the whole game. So, Stokes will be fine