Seventeen wickets fell inside the first two sessions on day two, India collapsing from their overnight 99-3 to 145 in reply to England’s 112 before the tourists were dismissed for 81 second time around, leaving India 49 for victory, which they duly achieved from just 46 balls to win by 10 wickets.
When Rohit Sharma came down the pitch and swatted England captain Joe Root over the leg-side for six to win the game, it felt like a symbolic ending, India metaphorically knocking down England’s king as they took an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
It was the shortest completed Test match since 1935 – finishing, as it did, some 20 minutes into its sixth session – and the first time that England had been involved in a two-day Test since they beat West Indies at Headingley in 2000. It was England’s first Test defeat inside two days since 1921, against Australia at Trent Bridge, and it dashed their hopes of reaching the final of the World Test Championship at Lord’s this summer, when New Zealand will meet either India or Australia.
For Root, especially, this was a day of the most extreme emotions that a captain can experience.
In the space of a few hours, his mood literally went from hopeful, even outrageous optimism that his side could somehow force their way back into the game at the start of the day, to the near-impossible reality of that happening thanks, in no small measure, to his own efforts with the ball, before the ultimate dejection.
Bowling his part-time off-spin, Root took 5-8 from 6.2 overs to achieve the first five-wicket haul of his first-class career and also the cheapest five-wicket analysis by an Englishman in Test history, beating Ian Botham’s 5-11 against Australia at Edgbaston during his annus mirabilis of 1981.
With Jack Leach chipping in with 4-54 from 20 overs, England triggered a collapse so dramatic that people would be still be talking about it now if only they had not followed it with another even more dramatic of their own, subsiding in their second innings inside 31 overs, Ben Stokes top-scoring with 25 and only Root (19) and Ollie Pope (12) also reaching double figures.
Axar Patel, the left-arm spinner playing only his second Test, completed his third successive five-wicket haul to finish with 5-32 and 11-70 in a man-of-the-match performance. Ravi Ashwin took 4-48, including his 400th Test wicket on his 77th appearance when Jofra Archer was lbw sweeping.
It said everything about Root that during his various post-match duties he took the trouble to congratulate Ashwin on achieving the milestone and also the India fast bowler Ishant Sharma on playing his 100th Test.
A winner at heart he may be, but Root also knows the right way to lose. The Yorkshireman was candid in his assessment of events. In a nutshell, England expected the pitch to do more for their seamers, and why they chose only one frontline spinner.
Root also felt that they should have scored at least twice as many runs in their first innings to give them around a par total, and he diplomatically stated that the pitch was challenging, pointing out that the pink ball gathered pace off the wicket as batsmen on both sides struggled as much with straight balls as ones that turned.
Root even quipped that the fact he picked up five wickets said everything about a surface that drew a mixed reaction on social media, ranging from bristling criticism to more measured reflections that some of the batting was simply not good enough.
Root’s second innings figures – 0-25 from 3.4 overs – rather summed up the polar opposites of his day, but there was no hiding that England should have picked Dom Bess as a second spinner, with the Yorkshire player unlucky to have been left out and now eyeing a return in the final Test, starting on Thursday.
After India moved to 114-3 in the day’s early stages, a lead of two runs, Leach removed Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma lbw.
Then it was over to Root, who struck with his first delivery when Rishabh Pant followed one and was caught behind, the captain then bowling Washington Sundar and having a driving Patel caught at cover. At that stage, Root had 3-0 from 2.3 overs.
His fourth wicket came when Ashwin holed out to deep square-leg, and his fifth when Jasprit Bumrah was trapped lbw, with India all-out for 145.
Patel struck with the first ball of England’s second innings, bowling Zak Crawley, and he would have had a hat-trick had Jonny Bairstow not been reprieved by DRS having been adjudged lbw to the next delivery (Patel had also taken the final wicket in the first innings).
It barely mattered. Bairstow was bowled next ball as Patel and Ashwin tied England in knots, with all of the tourists’ batsmen either bowled, lbw or caught close in.
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