CHENNAI: The writing was on the wall. Needing only 118 runs to square the series, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow didn’t take much time on Day 5 as they notched up unbeaten centuries to take England home in just over an hour-and-a-half of cricket on Tuesday. The defeat means India’s wait for their first series win in England since 2007 continued as they blew away a glorious opportunity to lift the Pataudi Trophy having done all the hard work to take 2-1 lead in 2021.
Having set a target of 378 to win the Test, India were left without any answers as England launched a stunning assault on Day Four, which virtually settled the fate of the tie. It was in complete contrast to how the bowling unit responded in the first innings, where they were not only disciplined but also kept pressure by bowling attacking lines.
However, with runs flowing freely on Monday, India seemed to lack Plan B. Of course, the pitch hadn’t deteriorated, but what was equally baffling was how one-dimensional India looked. In the first innings, all it took was a quiet period (19 deliveries without scoring a boundary) for India to dismiss Bairstow and it came on the back of dot balls. In the second innings, defending a huge total, India managed only six maidens, as England were able to dictate the tempo of the innings.
While all things would point out to how the bowlers failed to defend such a huge target, in hindsight, India would know they had a chance to bat England out of the Test. Having taken a 132-run lead in the first innings with plenty of time remaining in the Test and well aware of England’s scoring pattern, they had an opportunity to set a target that would have been beyond the hosts' reach. Instead, in perfect conditions for batting, India lost three of their middle-order wickets where the bowlers had very little role to play.
Going back to the series in South Africa this is the third successive Test where India have lost by a seven-wicket margin and each of them have come on pitches where the batting unit left some runs to score in the third innings.
“It's been disappointing in South Africa and here. It could be a variety of factors. We have to maintain a level of fitness. We have had third innings (batting) problems both in South Africa and Edgbaston,” head coach Rahul Dravid said. “Both in South Africa and here, we have started well but haven't been able to finish well. We controlled the game for three days but maybe, we did not bat that well in the second innings, and in our bowling, we were not able to sustain that intensity and we must give credit to England for the way they played,” he added.
Ever since Dravid took charge, there has been a change in personnel in the middle-order with Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer designated as the new No 3 and 5. This was the first away Test the duo played together and with India’s remaining World Test Championship assignments in Bangladesh and Australia at home, they have a chance to look for some stability. With no immediate tour to SENA countries on the horizon, India have time to relook at their batting unit.
For an attack that has done admiringly well across all conditions, they have now failed to defend targets in three successive Tests. While they had very little to defend in South Africa where the pitches had a tendency to flatten as the Test progressed, in the second innings at Edgbaston, they were short of answers.
“We had a couple of opportunities in South Africa as well, here as well, I just think it is something we need to look at and need to work upon. We have been very good at that in the last couple of years in terms of taking those 20 wickets and win those Test matches but we have not been able to do that in the last couple of months."