England facing prospect of a dismal dead rubber in Chennai

Captain Virat Kohli’s double century helps put India in control

The end is nigh unless miracles happen on Mondays in Mumbai for England.

They still trail India by 49 runs and they have just four wickets remaining. A vibrant Test match, providing rich entertainment, has brought beaming smiles to the locals, who have filled the stands of the Wankhede Stadium over the weekend.

For the tourists there is now the grim realisation that they have been outplayed once again and that there is no way back in the series, a dreadful feeling yet no disgrace.

On a brilliant surface for cricket, though you might struggle to find many pace bowlers adhering to this view; the best batsmen scored runs and skilful spin bowlers took wickets. From England’s perspective the sadness was that most of the batsmen were Indian, so too the bowlers.


From 307 for six on Saturday afternoon, India romped to 631 all out with Virat Kohli’s hand forever on the tiller and Jayant Yadav a willing and able first mate.

Hence England started batting with a massive deficit of 231, which was bound to dictate the outcome of the match. Their response was a mesmerizing, technicolour affair, almost certainly futile, but which made for another wonderful spectacle.

On what was presumed to be a deteriorating fourth day surface 362 runs were scored for the loss of nine wickets, most of the latter English. The ball is bouncing for the spinners and turning but any good batsmen who lasts for 20 minutes can still prevail. England’s response verged between the calamitous and the cavalier.

Poor Keaton Jennings followed his century on debut with a golden duck – the first batsman in Test history to do so.

He was lbw to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and it transpired that his partner, Alastair Cook, was correct not to advise a review.

Moeen Ali, having propelled 53 overs in the Indian innings, dutifully appeared at number four and was also dismissed without scoring to a fast-turning delivery from Ravindra Jadeja. In between Cook fell to Jadeja, yet again lbw while seeking runs on the leg-side.

Cavalier element

The cavalier element came from the Yorkshiremen.

Joe Root

, determined to counterattack and enjoying the challenge, hit 77 from 112 balls, an innings brimful of improvised sweeps, which often seemed less hazardous than a forward defensive.

In the end he was lbw to the new poster boy of Indian cricket, Jayant Yadav. Jonny Bairstow survived a few scares but was still there at the close on 50. Initially those heart-in-the-mouth moments came from inside edges; then he kept being given out by Umpire Oxenford only for the review system to come to everyone's rescue.

On the second occasion Oxenford was clearly aghast a millisecond after he had raised his finger, in recognition of his error; he made one pine for Kumar Dharmasena.

However Bairstow is running out of partners. Ben Stokes, reverse sweeping, unluckily gave a catch off his boot and the nightwatchman, Jake Ball, departed to the final delivery of the day, a second victim for Ravichandran Ashwin. Thus England face the prospect of a dismal dead rubber in Chennai.

Their humiliation commenced promptly in the morning session. Adil Rashid’s first two overs yielded 16 runs and thereafter Cook shuffled his bowlers like a cardsharp with superglue on his fingers. It did not make much difference who was bowling, though there would be the odd reminder that the pitch was allowing the ball to grip more readily for the spinners.

But England’s spinners were already a spent force; they had been emasculated on Saturday.

Virat Kohli was his irrepressible self, superfit and super-driven to ram home India’s advantage. Jayant Yadav meanwhile batted in the manner of Ashwin, which is now high praise. England think that they bat deep but their lower order cannot compare with India’s in this series.

False shot

Yadav, happily cruising along in Kohli’s wake, barely played a false shot. If Cook kept the field up for the spinners he popped the ball over their heads; if not he milked them as if they were as unthreatening as cuddly old Jerseys, who doubled as housepets.

Landmarks came and went: Kohli’s double century, which would advance to being the highest ever score by an Indian captain; Yadav’s maiden century the first ever by an Indian No9.

Some were not so palatable as the runs conceded by England’s spinners kept mounting. In the end Rashid finished with four wickets when Yadav was stumped and Kumar was caught on the deep mid-wicket boundary by Woakes, who had just dismissed Kohli for 235, snaffled on the boundary at deep extra cover.

But four wickets for Rashid came at a cost, 192 runs to be precise, which puts him third on the list of runs conceded by Englishmen in an innings.

Ian Botham, top of that list with 217 (against Pakistan at the Oval in 1987) was around to shake his hand if necessary; Ian Peebles, a leg-spinner – and scribe – of another era, remains in second place (on 204) and would surely have written about Rashid's lot with great sympathy.

Not that the experience of Rashid or Moeen, who conceded 174 runs, was unprecedented for English spinners in India.

Those who witnessed England's tour of 1992/3 can recall John Emburey, Phil Tufnell and Ian Salisbury being ruthlessly shredded on surfaces that only seemed to turn when England were batting – and two of those were renowned for their parsimony when bowling outside of India.

Just to cheer Rashid up let him contemplate a quirky stat, which should not be overinterpreted: Rashid's 22 wickets in four Tests here at an average of 32 may not have led to any victories but this is way beyond anything achieved by Shane Warne, who took his wickets at 47 apiece, in this country. That aside, there was not much for Englishmen abroad to be cheerful about.

The BCCI also confirmed on Sunday that the fast bowler Mohammed Shami and the wicketkeeper Wriddiman Saha will miss the final Test in Chennai through injury.

Guardian Service