There were plenty of talks about England's negative approach at the end of day four but James Anderson and Jack Leach brushed all of it aside on the final day and led their team to a memorable victory over India in the first Test in Chennai on Tuesday (February 9). England captain Joe Root made it clear that they "wanted to take India's win out of the equation" and that's exactly what they did on a surface that had become rough and uneven.
India even issued a warning that they might go for the 420-run target in the final innings and you can't blame them after what they achieved in Sydney and Brisbane. However, the conditions at the Chepauk were way more challenging and India could only survive 55.1 overs on the final day. Shubman Gill (83-ball 50) and Virat Kohli (104-ball 72) scored impressive fifties but the day deservedly belonged to Anderson and Leach.
Anderson (3/17) made full use of the reverse swing and broke the back of the Indian batting line-up in his first spell. Meanwhile, Leach claimed the all-important wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara and finished with figures of 4/76. There were deliveries that kept very low, while quite a few bounced sharply and that played a huge role in England bundling India out for 192. With this win, England also moved to the top of the World Test Championship standings, while India slipped to No. 4. The home side were outplayed on all five days and as a result, England have taken a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
England have now won all of their last six Tests in Asia, all under Root who scored a dominating double century in the first innings and helped his team amass 578. Meanwhile, Kohli has now lost his last four Tests as captain - the most he has lost in succession.
ANDERSON, LEACH DEMOLISH INDIA
India would have wanted Gill and Pujara to bat as long as possible. England started the proceedings with Leach and Jofra Archer and the two bowlers tried to bowl as straight as possible. The left-arm spinner commenced the day with a half-tracker but looked much more threatening than Archer.
India had quite a few stroke-makers in their batting line-up but Pujara was someone who could keep one end intact, just like he did in those two Tests in Sydney and Brisbane. If there was one wicket England would have wanted early on day five, it would have been of Pujara's and they got that from Leach. He got one to drift in from left-arm around in towards middle and off and the ball turned and bounced sharply. Pujara (15) had to play at it and could only nick it to Ben Stokes at first slip.
Gill, however, looked comfortable against Leach and Dominic Bess and used his feet with full assurity. The young opener didn't allow Bess to settle in and greeted him with a boundary down the ground. Gill played his shots and got to his third Test fifty off 81 deliveries. The ball was 26 overs old and that is when Root got Anderson into the attack. And, the veteran seamer turned the game on its head in a matter of one over.
Anderson got the ball to reverse and knocked over Gill with a peach of a delivery. He brought the ball back in from just outside off and stormed through the defence of Gill, sending the off-stump cartwheeling. Ajinkya Rahane survived a very close lbw call on the second delivery he faced but Anderson had his man in a similar fashion on the very next ball. This one too came back in, kept low and knocked over the off-stump.
Kohli looked certain but kept losing partners at regular intervals. In-form Rishabh Pant (11) announced his arrival with a drive but was outfoxed by Anderson. The ball was still reversing but the 38-year-old seamer tried an off-cutter and managed to induce a leading edge that went straight to the man at short cover. There was no Pant-magic and even Washington Sundar perished for a duck, getting caught behind off Bess.
Kohli pounced on every scoring opportunity, smashing Bess for three consecutive boundaries. Meanwhile, R Ashwin was peppered by the short stuff from Archer. Kohli looked focused but he needed Ashwin to hang around. The batting maestro, who last scored a Test century in November 2019, brought up his fifty but there was still a mountain to climb. The two managed to weather the storm for a bit. While Ashwin blocked or dodged everything that was thrown at him, Kohli showed his class.
The two added 54 runs before Ashwin (9) was once again done by the extra bounce. The right-hander tried to cut Leach but the ball climbed on him and brushed the glove through to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. It was Stokes who got the big scalp of Kohli, with the ball once again keeping low and sneaking under the bat of the India skipper. Kohli crafted nine fours in his fighting knock but his departure served as the final nail in the coffin.
India have been given a reality check after their win in Australia. Kohli, however, has made it clear that, "India are a side that always improves and knows how to bounce back. One thing is for sure, that in the next three matches we are going to give a tough fight and not let things slip away like it did in this Test." The second Test will be played at the same venue from Saturday (February 13).