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20th March 2021

A case of English double standards? India beat England in record-breaking test match

Sports Contributor Luke Keohane discusses the state-of-play after a stunning Indian victory
A case of English double standards? India beat England in record-breaking test match
Photo: Visit Britain @Flickr

England’s hopes of a series win in India were lost last week, after they succumbed to a damning 10-wicket loss in a hugely controversial day-night Test match in Ahmedabad.

After winning the toss and deciding to bat, Joe Root’s men stumbled from the get-go, and were quickly dismissed for 112. With nearly half the runs coming from the bat of Zak Crawley, England lost wickets at regular intervals. Only 4 batsman reached double figures.

India started positively with the bat. A 50-run partnership between Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli held the hosts in good stead. However, the loss of Kohli at the close of play on Day 1 spelt trouble for the Men In Blue, and was a sign of things to come.

The morning session was dominated by Jack Leach and the part-time off-spin of Joe Root. Root took 5-8 to reduce India to a lead of 33.

At this point, it was anybody’s game. With India only having a slim 1st innings lead, much of the UK viewing public was hoping for a monumental batting effort by Joe Root’s men to put them into a commanding position.

It was not meant to be. The mastery of Ashwin and Axar Patel bowling 30 interrupted overs and taking 9-80 between them, meant that England collapsed to 81 all out. Only needing 49 runs to win, an unbeaten opening partnership from Rohit and Gill finished the match, amazingly, in the second session on Day 2.

The match broke records. It was the shortest test match since the Second World War. At face value, the strength of the spinning surface meant that runs were extremely hard to come by. However, both teams also made fatal batting errors. It seemed to viewers that the same delivery was proving difficult for the batsmen – the one that pitched in line and went straight on.

The main talking point of the match should have been India’s brilliant bowling duo, Axar Patel and Ravi Ashwin. However, the controversy surrounding the pitch was the biggest talking point.

English double standards?

Soon after the match ended, the English press were resolute in their determination to have an ICC investigation into the pitch. They argued that the pitch unfairly favoured spin and failed to deteriorate as the game went on.

It is probably worth mentioning that, unlike football or rugby, the game of cricket is played completely differently dependent on which continent you are on. India is reputable for its slow, turning pitches, which bring spin more involved than in any other country.

Therefore, it should come to no surprise that spin dominated from the start. In England, we are used to seeing pace dominate – even on Day 4 and 5 pitches. There have been occasions where spinners have been nearly completely unused on English soil. When this does occur, there is no big media reaction to pace advantage. The Indian press don’t shout unfair play. Therefore, why is there accusations of unfair conduct when spin is dominant?

It’s the classic idea of home advantage. The home team, in any country, prepares pitches that will suit their own bowlers. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Ashwin and Axar did much better than Jack Leach and part-time bowler Joe Root.

For too long, the English cricket press have visualized cricket as an English phenomenon, reluctant to understand foreign conditions. It for is this reason that they make the accusation that they do.

The selection woes continue

It was clear that after the second test at Chennai, England were making some surprising selection errors. However, it was in this match that we saw extremely poor judgement errors.

The historically formidable partnership of Stuart Broad and James Anderson continues to not work. As they are both now much less quick than before, and rely on swing movement, India was always going to be a tough tour for the dynamic duo. Therefore, only one of them should now be played in a single match on overseas tours. This simple change of mindset could bring much more success, and would help the younger generation find their feet in the Test team.

Furthermore, to only play one spinner is ludicrous. England’s other spinner, Dom Bess, is arguably a much better bowler than Jack Leach. He turns the ball more, and is much better at getting drift in the air. His stats are better too. He was England’s top wicket taker in Sri Lanka earlier this year. Additionally, his 4-76 in Chennai played a crucial role in the team’s victory. If England want a chance of drawing the series next week, they should consider playing him alongside Jack Leach.

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