Thanks for your company and correspondence – we’ve had many excellent emails, more than we could use. The match report will be along shortly, and we’ll be back tomorrow to see what England can save from the wreckage. Hope your Valentine’s Day goes better than theirs.
Michael Jelley is wondering what was going off out there. “I can’t understand the point of dropping Anderson for Broad if you’re not going to bowl him with a new or newish ball when you’re desperate for something to happen. Broad is clever and tight, and winds players up.” Very true. It was surely worth giving him three overs to see if he could summon the muse.
A day in a paragraph
A long long time ago, India resumed at 300-6 and lost four wickets for 29 – two to the persevering Moeen Ali, two to the sparky Olly Stone. Rishabh Pant threw the bat to finish 58 not out with three sixes. Then England went in, and the pitch mysteriously turned into a minefield. By lunch, they were 39-4, their second-worst start to a first innings in Asia ever (after Galle 2007). Joe Root was out for about 180 fewer than usual; only Dan Lawrence lasted long, and he couldn’t hit the ball off the square. You know a team is in trouble when the only man finding the boundary is Dom Sibley. After lunch, Ben Stokes joined the procession, and although Ben Foakes played with calm assurance and saw off the faint possibility of the follow-on, England were all out for 134. Ravi Ashwin, the bowler of the series, took five more wickets to make 14 in ten days. India batted again, first with contempt, then with some difficulty as Leach and Moeen warmed to the task, but the game is up. We’ve had a day of 15 wickets, 217 runs, and oodles of drama.
Stumps: India cruising, 249 ahead
18th over: India 54-1 (Rohit 25, Pujara 7) Rohit helps himself to one more single off Leach, clipping to midwicket. If he was a footballer, and his team were winning, he wouldn’t be one for fiddling about by the corner flag. Pujara blocks the last two balls and that’s the close of a crazy day.
“Morning Tim,” says Finbar Anslow. “Bright and freezing here in North Italy, nice day through glass as they say. Just wondering about the World Test final; might be stating the bleedin’ obvious here, but were it to be an Aussie-Kiwi final wouldn’t it make more sense to stage it down under?” It might: it would be mid-winter in both countries, but at least they wouldn’t have to land in Britain in mid-pandemic. In that rather more vital world championship, Australia and New Zealand have played a blinder.
17th over: India 53-1 (Rohit 24, Pujara 7) Pujara plays out a maiden from Moeen, who is inching towards the consistency that eluded him yesterday.
“The fightback starts here!” says Tom van der Gucht. “When England bounce back and manage to win this Test, it’ll rank as one of the greatest victories in sporting history.”
16th over: India 53-1 (Rohit 24, Pujara 7) Yet another review as Foakes reckons he’s got Rohit stumped. The ball from Leach is well worth a wicket – turning, bouncing, arriving straight from the MCC manual – but Rohit has got his heel behind the line. He’s made 185 runs in two days and he’s not finished yet.
“Not buying any of the complaints about the pitch,” says Will Lane. “England have just been completely outplayed. Sometimes it happens and you just have to concede to the better team. Ominously for the rest of the series, if you compare the two teams man for man (e.g. Gill vs Burns, Rohit vs Sibley) how many times would you choose the England player? By my reckoning Archer and whichever of Broad and Anderson play would get the nod and that’s about it (tough call but going for Kohli over Root and Pant over Stokes). Maybe India are just a better team and we should just sit back and enjoy their brilliance.” They’ve certainly been the better team in this match. Two small points: if Broad and Anderson would both make the Composite XI, shouldn’t they both be in the England team? Also, it seems a bit much to make Stokes keep wicket.
15th over: India 53-1 (Rohit 24, Pujara 7) Just a single off Moeen. With three overs to go till the close, England need to make something happen.
Jon Salisbury would like a word about the umpiring. “Had the roles been reversed, Kohli would have taken his team off the field about three times by now.”
14th over: India 52-1 (Rohit 23, Pujara 7) Rohit survives another review. This time he’s given LBW to Leach, sweeping. He reviews immediately and he’s right – there was a bottom edge into the back leg. Leach then drops short and Pujara, dancing back, cuts for four.
13th over: India 47-1 (Rohit 22, Pujara 3) England appeal for LBW against Rohit as he hides the bat and pads up to Moeen outside off. It’s not given, presumably because the umpire does feel a shot was played, which would mean that the impact being outside off ruled out the LBW. Root disagrees, they review, but the TV umpire sides with his colleague. That feels like a miscarriage of justice, not that it will make much difference.
12th over: India 46-1 (Rohit 21, Pujara 3) Pujara, who didn’t bother fielding today, is fit to come out at No.3 and gets off the mark straightaway with a cut. But the wicket goes down as a minor triumph for Leach, and a good decision by umpire Menon.
And here’s a postcard from Calum Fordham. “Writing from a sunny but windy Naples with a snow-capped Vesuvius,” he writes. “Foakes has tarnished his reputation as one of the world’s best keepers with that missed stumping. Pant has excelled in both batting and keeping with his stunning catches today but Foakes’ deft batting display does bode well. I’m sure he will redeem himself with his skilful glovework. At least Leach and Moeen are bowling a tad better and quicker.” True. Taking their cue from Root.
Wicket! Gill LBW b Leach 14 (India 42-1)
Yes, pad first and he’s gone. A consolation prize for England.
Wicket? Gill given LBW b Leach 14
Gill plays inside a straight ball, bat and pad together. If it’s pad first, it’s plumb.
11th over: India 42-0 (Rohit 20, Gill 14) Gill plays an unusual shot, a lofted sweep off Moeen – not so much a slog-sweep, more a chip-sweep, and it goes over the man at short fine leg for two more. Then he tries a switch hit, misses, befuddles Foakes and runs three leg byes. Not sure what role the leg played there. Eight extras already!
10th over: India 37-0 (Rohit 20, Gill 12) A maiden from Leach to Rohit, who is hogging the strike and finally being made to work for his runs.
9th over: India 37-0 (Rohit 20, Gill 12) Moeen’s turn to deceive Rohit, and Foakes misses a stumping! It wasn’t easy, as the ball turned and looped to his left, but he would normally pull it off before anyone had time to say whether it was easy or not. Then, to add insult to injury, he concedes another bye. But at least the unfortunate Moeen picks up a maiden.
Meanwhile Raj, our Edinburgh-based pitch expert, is back for more. “Really pleased that Rohit and Shubman brought their own pitch to bat on when they came out in the 2nd innings,” he says. “The one England batted on earlier was an abomination.” Ha.
8th over: India 36-0 (Rohit 20, Gill 12) That’s a better over from Leach, who finds the edge of Rohit’s prodigious blade, only for the ball to drop short of Ben Stokes at slip.
Rohit saved his skin with a dive as Gill took a silly single to backward point. A better throw might have done the trick.
7th over: India 35-0 (Rohit 19, Gill 12) A stream of singles off Moeen, who is a lovely man but not an easy bowler to set a field for. Get Broad on!
“Hi Tim,” says Richard Hirst. “When’s the rain coming?”
6th over: India 31-0 (Rohit 17, Gill 10) Leach bowls a good ball, finding sharp turn from off stump and beating Rohit – but also beating Foakes, so that’s four byes and, at last, England have conceded an extra.
5th over: India 23-0 (Rohit 13, Gill 10) Root takes Stone off, Broad’s eyes light up – but the nod goes to Moeen Ali. His first ball is short and limp and eased through the covers by Rohit. His last is swung to cow corner by Gill, and that’s another six. This is a party, and England are just there to serve the guests.
Henry Rawlings on Twitter picks up on my remark from the 59th over. “Can’t help but feel,” he says, “the circumstances of Lord’s 2010 have always added unfairly to expectations of Broad’s batting...” True. But he did open for Oakham School, and he’s so comfortable when in full flow that it’s frustrating to see him come in at No.11 and throw it away.
4th over: India 12-0 (Rohit 8, Gill 4) Leach manages five dots to Gill, who would be most insulted if he had to play out a maiden. He slogs the last ball over mid-off, doesn’t get hold of it, but picks up two more. Gill may have embarked on an experiment here, to see if he can construct a hundred out of mishits.
3rd over: India 10-0 (Rohit 8, Gill 2) Stone tries a short ball to Rohit, who says thank you very much and swivel-pulls for six. That’s a gorgeous shot, and also a neat summary of the current balance of power.
“Hot day in Chennai here,” says Rishi. “All this talk of pitch seems rather overblown. This pitch has extra bounce and turn, especially with the new ball. To deal with it, the best strategy is to get down to the pitch and play it straight. It’s a lot more manageable when the ball gets older. Pujara got hit with the bounce, etc. But second session yesterday was well dealt with when the batsmen walked down to play the spin against the older ball. Foakes, and earlier, Pope, did the same to good effect against the slightly older ball. Despite the quality of the bowling, the pitch didn’t seem too hard when they were on.
“The England top order today, on the other hand, were caught in the crease and too often tried sweeping. The sweep works on pitches that doesn’t bounce. This one does. The batting coach needs to answer questions here, and not the curator.” That’s a great point.
2nd over: India 4-0 (Rohit 2, Gill 2) Jack Leach takes the new ball, as he did in the second innings of the first Test. I’m not sure about that: Broad would surely have had a point to prove, after collecting neither a wicket nor a run. Leach manages to deceive Shubman Gill as he dances down the track, but his lofted waft lands safely in the wilderness beyond backward point.
“Sorry to also talk about the pitch,” says Will Vignoles, “but I think a lot of people are missing just what a gamble this was for India – by preparing a turner they gave more chance to England’s spinners, and without Rohit they could easily have been rolled, throwing away the chance to keel the series in the process. At the time Rohit’s innings was good, but in hindsight I think it’s one of the best I’ve watched live, certainly on a turning track. Up there with Kevin Pietersen vs India or Sri Lanka in 2012.” Yes, it was a classic.
1st over: India 2-0 (Rohit 2, Gill 0) It seems only five minutes ago that Rohit Sharma was giving a masterclass in how to bat on a dustbowl, and now here he is again, getting the second innings under way by clipping Olly Stone for a couple. In a close Test match, the third innings tends to be riveting; in a game like this, not so much, but we live in hope.
“Foakes,” says Robin Hazlehurst, admiringly. “It’s not quite the Bannerman but to score a third of the team’s runs when coming in at seven is not bad. Meanwhile, Kohli should now open himself, score one and declare. Just because he can.” That might even make a game of it.
“I could have put my mortgage on Stuart Broad sweeping that,” says Andrew Strauss on Channel 4.
Rishi Persad may have been waiting for this moment. “As if Andrew Strauss has a mortgage.”
“Greetings from Lyon,” says Alistair Connor. “Great series, very suspenseful for a NZ fan, with all three results in play: India, England or Australia to qualify for the Test final. Well actually, with 4-0 now looking like a long shot, I’m hoping for 2-1 to your lot, to keep the Aussies out.”
So India have a lead of 195, which is like 395 on a typical Test pitch. England could go out there and bowl magnificently and still face a mountainous task, chasing 300.
England all out! For 134 (Broad b Ashwin 0)
Broad slog-sweeps, edges, drags it on and that’s that. Ashwin collects another five-for and poor old Foakes is left high and dry, 42 not out, but he has added even more lustre to his reputation and his Test average, which rises to 46.
59th over: England 131-9 (Foakes 39, Broad 0) In comes Broad, who just needs to rediscover his form from Lord’s 2010. He begins with a play-and-miss, poking at Ishant’s away-swinger.
Wicket! Leach c Pant b Ishant 5 (England 131-9)
Another nick and this time it’s caught, superbly, by Pant, diving towards slip. Leach had one job, to see England past 130; job done, he’s off for a breather before he has to open the bowling.
England avoid the follow-on
Mid-59th over: England 131-8 (Foakes 39, Leach 5) A rest for Axar Patel and a return for Ishant Sharma, who is always so good to watch. He comes bearing reverse swing, mostly away from the right-hander, and Foakes is edgy – edging for four, between the two slips, and then for three, keeping it down both times. And avoiding the follow-on!
58th over: England 124-8 (Foakes 32, Leach 5) Foakes gets away with a false shot, edging or gloving Ashwin close to the man at leg gully. Leach survives five more balls: he’s now faced 33, Foakes 99. But something tells me England would rather have Root 66 out there.
“Fair enough that pitches should be different and provide a test,” says Robin Hazlehurst. “The unfortunate thing here is the crowds. When there were no spectators they produced a pitch for a five-day match. When they can sell tickets and get people in, they produce one where it’s all over in two and a half days. The marketing people won’t be happy, whatever the cricket gods may think.”
57th over: England 123-8 (Foakes 31, Leach 5) Foakes takes a single off the first ball of Patel’s over, trusting Leach to cope with his fellow slow left-armer. And he does, though the last ball is a ripper which beats both bat and keeper and goes for four byes. They all count.
56th over: England 118-8 (Foakes 30, Leach 5) Foakes tries to be more aggressive against Ashwin, but succeeds only in top-edging a sweep for a single. The partnership is a mighty 13, so these two have got more than halfway to avoiding the follow-on – 12 more and they’ll be there.
55th over: England 117-8 (Foakes 29, Leach 5) Yet another single for Foakes, and there’s even one for Leach as he goes back to Patel and gets a thick edge past slip. This enables Foakes to pinch a second single with a leg glance and keep the strike. Progress!
54th over: England 114-8 (Foakes 27, Leach 4) Foakes gets his customary single, with a sweep this time, leaving Leach to face four balls from Ashwin with four men in a tiny arc from slip to silly point. I’m not sure they’re social-distancing. After a few prods, Leach fancies a slog-sweep, and misses it by a country mile.