India destroyed any hope England had of qualifying for the ICC World Test Championship finals after winning by 10 wickets in just the second day of the test – the shortest test match that’s happened since World War 2. After a superb bowling display by captain Joe Root during India’s first innings where he took the last 5 wickets – the first England captain to do so since Bob Willis in 1983 – to put India at 145 all out, England once again collapsed in disappointing fashion in their second innings, falling victim to India’s deadly spin bowlers.
India’s elite spinners cause England grief
Although England batted poorly over the two days, you cannot deny their demise was aided by India’s elite spin bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin (3-26 & 4-48) and player of the match, Axar Patel (6-38 & 5-32). Sportstar claims the duo “run riot” on the England batters, whereas The Times Now say Patel’s “bowling masterclass” was the catalyst for England’s horrific collapses.
I think this is a completely reasonable evaluation, especially considering Patel’s back-to-back 5 wicket outings were the first time a bowler had done such a thing in the history of the pink ball test match. In his debut and second ever test match! Ashwin also claimed his 400th test wicket during the match, making him the fastest ever Indian bowler to reach 400 wickets – an achievement that further emphasises how dominant India’s spinners have been over the last two tests.
England blame India’s pitch – again
After English media, as well as fans on social media, sought to blame the condition of the pitch in Chennai for England’s abysmal performance in the second test, it seems as though the pitch for Test 3 at the Sardar Patel Stadium also attracted the same scrutiny.
Sky Sports pundit Rob Key claims the pitch was “not fit for test cricket” and although it was only day two, he says the pitch was “behaving like a day eight pitch”. Fellow Sky Sports pundit and former England head coach David Lloyd even went as far as saying that it wasn’t a pitch and that “all they have done is put stumps in at either end”.
Although criticism of the pitch can be justified, especially when you see how the turf was exploding from the impact of the ball on day one, it seems rather petty to make the condition of the pitch your main argument for England’s poor performance over the two days, rather than just admitting India played the better cricket overall.
'$110 million for the stadium and about 50 cents spent on the pitch'.@theanalyst got his pink ball out to explain why the batsmen struggled with it, and discussed the pitch after England's defeat in the 3rd Test. 🏏#INDvENG #channel4cricket pic.twitter.com/OtPUvAV20i
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) February 25, 2021
England’s poor batting display their downfall
When England captain Joe Root took 5 wickets whilst only conceding 8 runs to finish India’s first innings on 145 all out, England must have felt like they had a great chance at winning this crucial third test, especially considering they only had a deficit of 33 to catch.
However, as with the second test, England’s batting display was lacklustre and caused more trouble for the visitors than good. BBC’s Matthew Henry states how it was “feeble and confirmed their fate” – evident by their poor totals for both innings (112 & 81). England’s second innings summed up their performance this test. When you lose two wickets in the first three balls, without taking anything away from the skill and precision of Ashwin and Patel of course, it’s simply not good enough. Especially when your best batsman of the first innings, Zak Crawley, goes for a Golden Duck in the second.
No excuses for England
Whilst I fully understand the argument of the pitch being in questionable condition, England cannot put the blame for their performance solely on that. When you see Crawley go 53 off 84 in the first innings, it shows a good performance in those conditions is not impossible.
Furthermore, his output only condemns the poor batting displays of teammates such as Jonny Bairstow, who scored 0 off 11 balls over the test, as well as Dom Sibley, who managed just 7 off 32 over the two days. Simply put, England need to go back to the drawing board, as this marks the fifth straight innings in which they have failed to score 200 – a clear sign that something needs to change in that department.
For more thoughts, watch Joe Root’s post-match interview for the second day of the third test here.Leave a comment