Cricket: a sobering loss for England in Chennai

 

Cricket: a sobering loss for England in Chennai

Following their uplifting victory in the first Test against India, the second, also at Chennai, has proved a sobering comedown for England’s cricketers, On a pitch that turned from the opening day, Joe Root’s men managed only 134 in their first innings, in response to India’s 329. It was never likely to be enough. India’s victory duly arrived on day four, when England, set 482 to win, managed just 164 in their second innings. Little about the match gave the touring side cause to cheer, aside from the performance of wicketkeeper Ben Foakes who, as well as pulling off several brilliant stumpings, top-scored in England’s first innings with an unbeaten 42. As they head to Ahmedabad for the third Test – a “pink-ball” contest that will take place partially under floodlights – England’s “sole consolation” is that being all-square after two matches was a position they’d surely have welcomed at the start of the tour.

Several pundits, including England’s former captain Andrew Strauss, have blamed the pitch, suggesting that the dusty surface was inadequate for a five-day Test match – and that it had been prepared expressly to suit India’s spin bowlers. But if the wicket was so bad, how come India managed more than 600 runs on it? What this pitch really exposed,was the limitations of England’s off-spinners: they are simply too inconsistent to be properly dangerous at this level. Moeen Ali, playing in his first Test for 18 months, bowled far too many long hops and full tosses, just as Dom Bess did in the previous Test. By contrast, India’s two spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, found the same spot “time after time”. The mediocre performance of England’s spinners is the “real elephant in the room” on this tour – and something that urgently needs to change.

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