How often does it happen, even in these times of accelerated Test cricket, that a team scores 400 or more in the first innings and still goes on to lose? OK, what about going on to lose by an innings? That’s rare, right?
Not quite. On England’s five-Test tour of India in late 2016, they went down by an innings in the fourth and fifth Tests, the first time after posting 400 in the first innings, and then after putting 477 on the board at the first time of asking. England were good, but India were too good.
When England last visited India, in the 2012/13 season, they had surprised the home side by out-spinning them, courtesy of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. This time, there was no such luck as the duo of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja reigned supreme. For England, Adil Rashid did pick up a bunch of wickets, but Moeen Ali wasn’t quite the supporting act England would have hoped for.
India’s supporters had good reason to worry in the first Test in Rajkot after England rode on centuries from Joe Root, Ali and Ben Stokes to score 537, and then restricted the home side to 488. It got worse for India as Alastair Cook then scored 130, and the young Haseeb Hameed a commendable 82 to set the hosts 310 to win. So far so good, especially with Rashid in his element. It was only Virat Kohli’s battling unbeaten 40 that allowed India to play out time and end at 172/6, thereby securing a nervy draw.
That was as good as it got for England. The next two Tests went India’s way, by 246 runs and then by eight wickets in Visakhapatnam and Mohali respectively. Kohli was once again among the runs in the second Test, and the spin triplets – Jayant Yadav joining Ashwin and Jadeja – ran rings around the England batsmen. On to the third Test, and it was Jadeja the all-rounder who made the difference, scoring an essential 90 from No.8 in the first innings to go with his match-haul of 4/121.
After winning the toss in Mumbai’s fourth Test, England batted close to a day and a half for 400, with Keaton Jennings scoring 112 in his debut innings. India then batted well into the fourth day as they ended on 631, courtesy a mammoth 235 from Kohli and centuries from Murali Vijay and Yadav. Surely there was no time for a result left? Of course there was, because Ashwin, who had picked up 6/112 in the first innings, had it in him to pick up six more to end with match figures of 12/167. England lasted just eight overs on the final morning to lose by an innings and 36 runs.
So India won after conceding 400 in the first innings in Mumbai, and then, in Chennai, after England scored 477 in the first innings after again opting to bat. This time, the story of the Indian win was Karun Nair, playing only his third Test match, and Jadeja again. Nair scored 303 not out in India’s only innings, becoming only the second Test triple centurion for his country after Virender Sehwag, as India responded with 759/7 declared.
India wouldn’t lose, but with very little time left, a draw was very likely, even in Chennai. It seemed so even more when Cook and Jennings batted out close to 40 overs in putting together 103 runs for the first wicket. But then came the collapse, triggered by Jadeja. It was 129/4 in next to no time, and then, after a brief resistance from Ali and Stokes, 192/5 and finally 207 all out. Done and dusted.
Ashwin finished the series with 28 wickets to Jadeja’s 26, and among the batsmen, Kohli was well ahead of the pack with 655 runs, followed by Root with 491. The juggernaut was on a roll.