The end came with a disappointing finality. The scorecard might say Team England were decimated in Vizag. The verdict was inevitable after Alastair Cook lost the toss. The conditions were such that the chasers, particularly visitors, would have the fight knocked out of them by the turning ball on a wearing pitch. Notwithstanding the shortcomings of those stepping on these shores without the soundness of technique against spin bowling, Team England did put up a fight in their first essay before bowing to the inevitable at the tail end of the match.
The winning streak at home has been so long as to match the second longest in history that it is hard to argue about what more Team India could have done. Of course, the dependence on Virat Kohli to play crucial innings at every turn might have bearing on the team when it travels. Having secured the draw in Rajkot, Kohli unleashed his true brilliance in Vizag, playing two big knocks, each a masterpiece in the given conditions, the first of total dominance on a good but slow pitch where just one reprieve off a topedged hook was sufficient to make England pay and the second a good example of intent in making runs, however difficult the pitch was getting in its wear and tear.
Kohli’s contribution with the bat made all the difference although Cook’s early strategy of relying too much too early on spin on the opening day may have helped India get away. It is a cliché to say you must make the first innings count in India. England did that well enough in the first Test while India repaid the honour in the second Test after having been subjected to a sort of humiliation when having to defend to ensure the draw in Rajkot. There is much to be said of Kohli’s maturity as a test batsman today. However, like all major batsmen in the game, he would like his contribution to be judged as part of the team collective, the logic being particularly relevant in his case as he leads the world’s top ranked Test side.
The other aspect of the Test that augurs well for the future is the advent of Jayant Yadav, who seems a natural. While we must wait to judge him as a batsman on faster pitches abroad, what we saw of him is enough to suggest there is a high quality player in the making. He is there principally for his off spin, which he bowls off a sprinting run in somewhat aggressive style as opposed to the more indolent Ashwin style representing a greater thinking process, and there is still every chance that Yadav will develop into a good allrounder. He looked the consummate artist against spin bowling, handling it with the ease of a seasoned performer than a debutant. He made further impressions in the field with a reflex throw and spells of controlled off spin.
Spotted by the stalwart talent scout and former India stumper, Bharat Reddy, Jayant came to Chennai to further his prospects as a professional. He couldn’t have had a better start in the city than to be a house guest of Ravi Ashwin as he began to learn the ropes as a member of Jolly Rovers in the pro circuit of Chennai cricket. As a cricketer with considerable experience on the domestic circuit, he fits well into the home season test scene to be played on turning tracks. How he copes with the challenge of fighting for a spot when the team goes abroad would probably define his career. He has had a head start in being a non-nervous debutant, which is saying a lot considering how many talented ones have struggled on stepping up to the international stage.
If Team England can leave behind the Vizag glitch of the fourth innings — always the most difficult on any but the hardest and most sporting pitches of the kind sometimes seen in Perth or Johannesburg — there could still be serious cricket ahead in the remainder of the long series. Most touring teams simply give up after losing one Test. To get up and regroup is again not the easiest of tasks, but it has been done before even on turning tracks as team England well knows. What Kohli’s team India need at the moment is a real test of capabilities and this England team with its combination of patient batsmen — perhaps too patient as Kohli said about their lack of intent in Vizag — and two good spinners.