|Second Test, Chennai (day four)|
|India 329 (Rohit 161, Moeen 4-128) & 286 (Ashwin 106, Moeen 4-98)|
|England 134 (Ashwin 5-43) & 164 (Axar 5-60)|
|India won by 317 runs|
England succumbed to an inevitable 317-run defeat by India on the fourth day of the second Test in Chennai.
Faced with the hopeless task of chasing 482 on a deteriorating pitch, England lost all 10 wickets to spin as they were bowled out for 164 to leave the four-Test series poised at 1-1.
Only captain Joe Root provided prolonged resistance, but even he needed plenty of fortune in his 33, before Moeen Ali chanced his arm for 43 off only 18 balls.
Debutant left-arm spinner Axar Patel claimed 5-60, while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-53 – and match figures of 8-96 – to go with a century in India’s second innings.
After two matches in Chennai, the series moves to Ahmedabad, with the day-night third Test beginning on 24 February.
Moeen will miss those matches, choosing to go home as part of England’s rotation policy.
India fightback leaves series poised
Halfway through, this series between two Test heavyweights is living up to its billing.
After England produced one of their finest away performances to win the first Test by 227 runs, India have dominated the second, exploiting their expertise in dusty, spinning conditions.
While the tourists cashed in on winning the toss in the first Test, India did the same in the second. Even if this match will be remembered for the pitch, that should not detract from the fact that the home side have been vastly superior.
Between them, Rohit Sharma and Ashwin made more runs than the entire England team. Ashwin and Axar applied more pressure than England spinners Jack Leach and Moeen, while Rishabh Pant pulled off as many moments of wicketkeeping brilliance as Ben Foakes.
The floodlit third Test, played with the pink ball, will add a different dynamic, with pace bowling perhaps having a bigger role.
On the line in the final two matches will not only be the outcome of the series, but also a place in the World Test Championship final. England, India or Australia can make it through to meet New Zealand in June.
India sweep to victory
From 53-3 overnight, England’s only goal on the fourth day was to survive as long as possible on a pitch offering huge and unpredictable turn as well as occasional spitting bounce.
Dan Lawrence tried to be proactive, running at Ashwin’s first ball to be nutmegged, with Pant completing a spectacular diving stumping.
In contrast, Ben Stokes was almost shot-less, tormented by Ashwin in making eight from 51 balls before he offered a bat-pad catch.
While Root survived offering a simple chance to Mohammed Siraj off a reverse sweep, Ollie Pope and Foakes were caught miscuing conventional sweeps.
Root, though, could do nothing about a snorter from Axar that took the glove and was held at gully.
With the game gone, Moeen blazed five mighty sixes and was in with a chance of the fastest half-century in Test cricket, only to be the last man out, stumped by some distance off Kuldeep Yadav.
England left to regroup
This is the first blemish on a winter that had seen England win their three previous Tests, an overall run of six successive away wins going back to December 2019.
Although defeat in Chennai was reminiscent of their historical struggles in Asia, in particular the 4-0 hammering on their last tour of India, there are still reasons for optimism looking to Ahmedabad.
In the one previous pink-ball Test in India, albeit in Kolkata, none of the hosts’ spinners took a wicket in the victory over Bangladesh, the only occasion that has happened in an India home win.
Seamer-friendly conditions in Ahmedabad would be more suitable to England than the turn of Chennai, with seamer James Anderson – rested this week – likely to come back into the side.
England will also have Jonny Bairstow available after he was rested for the first two Tests, with Zak Crawley also potentially fit following a wrist injury. They would provide alternatives to Rory Burns or Lawrence.
Sam Curran and Mark Wood have also rejoined the squad, while Jofra Archer could also be available after missing the second Test with an elbow problem.
‘We are very much in this series’ – what they said
England captain Joe Root: “Credit has to go to India. They outplayed us in all three departments.
“We are 1-1 in the series with two important games to come. We are very much in this series. It is set up very nicely.
India captain Virat Kohli: “It was a bit strange in the first game playing at home without the crowd. This game the crowd made a massive difference.
“Our application with the bat was outstanding. Conditions were challenging for both sides but we showed more application to grit it out. It was a perfect game for us.”
Player of the match Ravichandran Ashwin: “This wicket is very different to what we played on in the first game. The balls that were doing much were not getting wickets. You had to play on the mind of batsmen to get wickets.
“It is easy to say ‘go out bowl and you will get wickets’. It’s not as easy as it looks. It takes a certain amount of guile to be able to do it.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on The Cricket Social: “England can’t just say ‘these things happen on these kinds of wickets’ because they will come up against India again in the next two Tests on similar kinds of wickets. It’s all about how they improve and learn.”