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Monday, March 1, 2021

Capt Kohli unfairly blames support bowlers for huge loss !

              At Rawalpindi, Hasan Ali's ten-wicket match haul topped stubborn resistance from two of South Africa's Test captaincy candidates, Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma, to secure Pakistan's first series win over South Africa since 2003. Hasan triggered a collapse with the second new ball that saw South Africa lose seven wickets for 33 runs and fall 96 runs short of what would have been the highest successful chase in Pakistan. They had lost the first Test, in Karachi, by seven wickets.

Back home, at Chepauk stadium, England inflicted on India its first home loss in four years by overwhelming the host on the last day of the first test and winning by 227 runs on Tuesday. India, handed a 420-run target to win but batting for a draw, was bowled out for 192 half an hour before tea. Fast bowler James Anderson turned England’s fortunes in his first over of the day with genius inswingers. He bowled Shubman Gill with his second delivery and Ajinkya Rahane with his fifth to reduce India to 92-4 in the morning session. Six overs later, Rishabh Pant was caught at short extra cover, chipping the ball off Anderson again. India went to lunch 144-6.

We have seen many tests at Chepauk – this one was different in the sense, it was played sans spectators and the next test at the same venue is going to be played in another 4 days ! .. ..  India has lost to England at Chepauk  on earlier occasions too !  [one has to dig to statistics to somehow convince oneself that this loss is not something new or something that hurts !!]

The score card reads : England 578 (Root 218, Sibley 87, Stokes 82) and 178 (Ashwin 6-61) beat India 337 (Pant 91, Sundar 85*, Pujara 73, Bess 4-76) and 192 (Kohli 72, Leach 4-76) by 227 runs.  By the time they made that mammoth first innings total, India perhaps lost the match – though die-hard Indian fans fancied a last day flurry of runs from Indian batters, which never occurred though. In the end, it was a humiliating  227-run defeat in Chennai thanks to a dominant fourth-innings bowling performance, with Jack Leach and James Anderson taking seven wickets between them on the final day as they wrapped up victory before tea.

Way back in Feb 1934,  England made : 335 & 261/7d & beat India by 202 runs as hosts could muster only  145 & 249.  In 1977, that John Lever Vaseline series, England : 262 & 185/9d – still won by 200 runs as India made 164 and a paltry 83.  In 1985 Greame Fowler & Mike Gatting made double hundreds as visitors piled runs, just as they did this time.   India made : 272 & 412 lost to England by 9 wickets as England made  652/7d & 35/1.   India did best England in 1952 in Test 348; in 1973 in Test 708; in 1985 test 1008; 2008-1898 & in 2016 – 2241.

Chasing 420, Rohit Sharma was removed on fourth day evening – this morning, Leach struck the first blow  by drawing an edge from Cheteshwar Pujara, and returned to help mop up the tail, but it was Anderson's spell before lunch that ripped out India's middle order and set the win in motion. With the ball reverse-swinging and keeping low from a length, Anderson sent the off stump cartwheeling out the ground twice in his first over of the day to remove Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane, and induced a leading edge from Rishabh Pant to leave him with figures of 5-3-6-3 in a spell that defined the day.

Despite a near-faultless innings of 72 from Virat Kohli, India's chances were quashed by the loss of five wickets in the first session, and after a grubber from Ben Stokes snuck under Kohli's bat, Leach and Archer finished the job to seal a sixth consecutive away win for England. This was only India's second defeat at home since their 2-1 series loss to England in late 2012, and leaves them needing at least two wins and a draw in the remaining three matches if they are to reach the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final.

Pujara's wicket looked the crucial one, after his rearguard efforts in Australia and with his impeccable record against left-arm spin. But he was gone within half an hour: he closed the face looking to work Leach into the leg side, but the ball turned and bounced to take the shoulder of the bat and loop up to Stokes at slip. Old workhorse Jimmy Anderson removed Gill, rapped Rahane and bowled England to victory.

Captains react differently !  ~ perhaps if it had been mercurial MS Dhoni, there would have been lot more criticism on social media but have observed that most times, MSD would handle defeats better ! .. ..  though  he didn't name Shahbaz Nadeem or Washington Sundar, captain Virat Kohli said after India's 227-run defeat to England in the first Test in Chennai that their back-up bowling options to the two quicks and R Ashwin had left a fair bit to be desired. "I don't think we put enough pressure with the ball," he said, and that "our body language and our intensity wasn't up to the mark".

"Collectively, as a bowling unit, I think the fast bowlers and Ash [Ashwin] was pretty good in the first innings but then we needed, probably, all the bowlers to contain a few more runs, create enough pressure," Kohli said after the match on the official broadcast. "Having said that, it was a pretty slow wicket with not much happening in the first two days, which made it very easy for the batsmen to rotate strike and get into the game. It just looked like there was not much happening on the first two days with the ball. "Yeah, that's a fair assessment," Kohli said when Murali Kartik asked him if Nadeem and Sundar had failed to apply as much pressure as the three senior bowlers.  If yes, was that not a poor selection made by Captain, Coach and Selectors !!

England put themselves in a strong position when they scored 578 in the first innings and made it tougher for India by bowling them out for 337. And though India set up a 420-run chase by bowling England out for 178 in their second innings, the chase never really moved up the gears.  What Kohli did not observe or acknowledge is the fact that  it is the batsmen who have left India down – the opening pair looks unsettled and the middle-order is weak. Statistically speaking, Rohit Sharma in last 10 innings has scores of : 14, 212, 6, 21, 26, 52, 44, 7, 6 & 12.   Capt Kohli himself has : 0, 136, 2, 19, 3, 14, 74, 4, 11 & 72.  The man touted as wall Cheteswar Pujara has : 43,0, 17, 3, 50, 77, 25, 56, 73 & 15.  Ajinkya Rahane has not been consistent making scores of : 42, 0, 112, 27*, 22,4, 37, 24, 1 & 0. Perhaps there is need for some certain change in batting line-up rather than bowlers who have in recent times (but for the first innings of this Test) have bowled really well. For sure Washington Sunder deserved more than that solitary over he bowled in the second innings.

Ravi Ashwin is racing towards his 400 wickets –  he has 386 in 75 tests / 140 innings with 28 5W hauls and 7 10 wicket hauls.  Ishant Sharma has played 98 tests / 177 innings for his 300 wickets with 11 five fors and one 10 for. Hope India bounces back in the 2nd test again at Chepauk.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
pics credit : BCCI twitter


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