Tuesday, 16 February 2021 09:38

Staff Reporter.

England succumbed to an inevitable 317-run defeat by India on the fourth day of the second Test in Chennai.

Faced with the hopeless task of chasing 482 on a deteriorating pitch, England lost all 10 wickets to spin, bowled out for 164 to leave the four-Test series poised at 1-1.

Only captain Joe Root provided prolonged resistance, but even he needed plenty of fortune in his 33, before Moeen Ali chanced his arm for 43 off only 18 balls.

Debutant left-arm spinner Axar Patel claimed 5-60, while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-53 - and with match figures of 8-96 - to go with a century in India's second innings.

After two matches in Chennai, the series moves to Ahmedabad, with the day-night third Test beginning on 23 February.

Halfway through, this series between two Test heavyweights is living up to its billing.

After England produced one of their finest away performances to win the first Test by 227 runs, India have dominated the second, exploiting their expertise in dusty, spinning conditions.

While the tourists cashed in on winning the toss in the first Test, India did the same in the second. Even if this match will be remembered for the pitch, that should not detract from the fact that the home side have been vastly superior.

Between them, Rohit Sharma and Ashwin made more runs than the entire England team. Ashwin and Axar applied more pressure than England spinners Jack Leach and Moeen, while Rishabh Pant pulled off as many moments of wicketkeeping brilliance as Ben Foakes.

The floodlit third Test, played with the pink ball, will add a different dynamic, with pace bowling perhaps playing a bigger part.

On the line in the final two matches will not only be the outcome of the series, but also a place in the World Test Championship final. England, India or Australia can make it through to meet New Zealand in June.

From 53-3 overnight, England's only goal on the fourth day was to survive as long as possible on a pitch offering huge and unpredictable turn as well as occasional spitting bounce.

Dan Lawrence tried to be pro-active, running at Ashwin's first ball to be nutmegged, with Pant completing a spectacular diving stumping.

In contrast, Ben Stokes was almost shotless, tormented by Ashwin in making eight from 51 balls before he offered a bat-pad catch.

While Root survived offering a simple chance to Mohammed Siraj off a reverse sweep, Ollie Pope and Foakes were caught miscuing conventional sweeps.

Root, though, could do nothing about a snorter from Axar that took the glove and was held at gully.

With the game gone, Moeen blazed five mighty sixes and was in with a chance of the fastest half-century in Test cricket, only to be the last man out, stumped by some distance off Kuldeep Yadav.

This is the first blemish on a winter that had seen England win their three previous Tests, an overall run of six successive away wins going back to December 2019.

Although defeat in Chennai was reminiscent of their historical struggles in Asia, in particular the 4-0 hammering on their last tour of India, there are still reasons for optimism looking to Ahmedabad.

In the one previous pink-ball Test in India, albeit in Kolkata, none of the hosts' spinners took a wicket in the victory over Bangladesh, the only occasion that has happened in an India home Test.

That will be more suitable to England than the turn of Chennai, with the rested James Anderson likely to come back into the side.

England will also have Jonny Bairstow available after he was rested for the first two Tests, with Zak Crawley also potentially fit following a wrist injury. They would provide alternatives to the struggling Rory Burns or Lawrence.

Sam Curran and Mark Wood have also rejoined the squad, with a decision expected on which, if any, players will be rested for the rest of the series. Moeen has said that he is expects to return home.