England celebrated Test cricket’s return to Channel 4 and free-to-air TV with a comprehensive win in the first Test against India at Chennai. It was not so much the win itself that was shocking, okay maybe it was a little, but the manner of the victory.
At no point in the Test did England seem to be out of control, even when Rishabh Pant was clearing the boundaries England were so far ahead that it did not cause panic. It was a textbook victory on a flat subcontinental pitch: win the toss, bat for days, and win the match as the pitch quickly crumbles.
The plaudits will deservedly go to Joe Root, who celebrated his 100th Test with a decisive double-century. Coming to Chennai on the back of a brilliant series in Sri Lanka (426 runs at 106.5) he was well-prepared to assert his prodigious skill. Yet his 218 surpassed his effort in Sri Lanka, it was a demonstration of a batsman of rare quality in rare form, a masterclass in how to play spin by one of the best players of slow bowling the game has seen. Root’s batting has spent a few years in a bit of a slump but, seemingly refreshed by the COVID-enforced break, he has now retaken his spot among the finest batsmen in the world.
While we ponder the English batting, it would be reticent not to lavish praise on Dom Sibley. David Gower he is not, but his 87 from 286 balls was an innings worth its weight in gold. The runs themselves were important, but it was the way that Sibley took time out of the game, and sapped the energy of the Indian fielders. After struggling in Sri Lanka, this innings will go a long way to reasserting how valuable a player Sibley has already made himself for England.
The decisive spell of bowling though was Jimmy Anderson on the fifth morning
Having batted into the third day, the match was well set up for England’s bowlers. Spinners Leach and Bess blew both hot and cold, but got the job done, as Bess took 4-fer in the first innings and Leach the same in the second.
The decisive spell of bowling though was Jimmy Anderson on the fifth morning. In a masterful over of reverse swing Anderson removed the entertaining Shubman Gill before bowling Ajinkya Rahane with a similar delivery. He then deceived Pant and Joe Root took and easy catch at short mid-on. Anderson, evergreen, finished with figures of 3-17 as he has moved up to third in the world on the ICC Test Bowler rankings.
Anderson’s brilliance has increased calls for him to retain his spot for the second Test. However, with England’s rotation policy having worked so far, there is no reason to change it, especially since the third Test is a day-night match that England will want Anderson at the top of his game for. Jofra Archer has also been ruled out of the second Test through injury so may be replaced by Woakes or Stone and Dom Bess has been dropped in favour of Moeen Ali. Except for rotating bowlers, the only change expected for the England line-up is Foakes replacing Buttler as wicketkeeper.
Selection questions are a bit more difficult for India, who are struggling to find a balanced side with Ravindra Jadeja out. It seems though they may improve with Axar Patel coming to replace Shahbaz Nadeem who struggled in the first Test. Much will rely on India’s first innings batting though, if the pitch is as flat as the first in the second Test, first innings runs will prove crucial.
India’s 337 in the first innings displayed many lazy dismissals, perhaps as a result of the mentally taxing tour of Australia. Losses at home hurt though, and England will need a repeat of their perfect performance in the first Test to compete in the second.