Match Analysis

India land the body-blows as England's ethos takes a pummelling

Short turnaround will test resilience after worst defeat of Stokes-McCullum era

"Ab toh maar hi nahi rahe hai", bellowed Jasprit Bumrah through the stump mic, as Joe Root defended an off-cutter under the eyes to close out the 11th over of England's second innings. The score was 28 for 3, chasing a target of 557. Bumrah's message to his teammates - and the rest of the world - was clear: "Now they are not hitting at all".
A ball later, Jonny Bairstow missed a sweep against Ravindra Jadeja, and England were 28 for 4.


England were not hitting. Not even a little bit. What boldness there was in pursuit, characterised the night before by Ben Duckett's claim "the more, the better", had all but disappeared by the time the chase began. India had pushed them to the brink before kicking them off the edge to record their highest-ever victory by 434 runs. It is England's worst defeat since 1934, and the eighth heaviest beating any Test side has received.
That the end began with a comedy run-out was an omen for the doom to come, particularly given the victim. Duckett - 153 in the first innings - was sent on his way for 4 following a miscommunication with Zak Crawley. Such a rudimentary error between two openers who have thrived together for well over a year - and have as many fifty-plus opening stands this series (4) of any first-wicket pair to have visited India between 2018 and 2023 - was a nod to the in-game wounds India had inflicted.
But for Mark Wood's 33 - the highest score, and only the fifth England batter to reach double figures - this could have been worse. At one stage, England were 50 for 7 having lost Joe Root, Stokes and Rehan Ahmed in 24 deliveries without adding a run.
This is the lowest ebb of the Bazball era so far. Worse than the innings defeat against South Africa at Lord's in 2022, and the Ashes Test at the same ground last summer when a similar opportunity was botched in their first innings, responding to a 400-plus score, with a key opponent ruled out. And just like then, they have played into the dumbing-down of a method that has been incredibly effective so far. This is only the sixth defeat in 21 Tests under the McCullum-Stokes axis, with 14 victories. But they are one loss away from not winning any of their last three series.
The spectacular tanking on day three from 224 for 2 to 319 all out proved terminal, triggered by Root's misjudged ramp against Bumrah. Giving up a first-innings lead of 126 was unnecessary. Maybe even inexplicable given they were their best selves - namely Duckett with 133 runs on day two - for the first half of their response to India's first innings of 445.
The hosts were stunned, and given a further shock when R Ashwin pulled out of the match for personal reasons. Ashwin returned to Rajkot on Sunday morning, rejoining his teammates on the field for the final session - and eventually dismissing Tom Hartley for his 501st career dismissal - in a match with a very different complexion.


England were frustrated at that tea break, which had been called upon the LBW dismissal of Crawley to make it 18 for 2. The batter was less than impressed after he was given out on the field, with DRS upholding Kumar Dharmasena's decision by the finest of margins on the leg bail. Stokes and Brendon McCullum were still angry enough about the decision to speak to match referee Jeff Crowe at the end of the match.
Much like the highs when the batters get the plaudits, the buck stops with them here. Not so much for the way they succumbed to defeat on Sunday evening but the way they relinquished a strong position that Saturday morning.
It meant the team ended up spending just over 67 percent of the four days (228.5 overs) in the field, with just 71.1 overs between their first and second innings. It was clear they were circling the drain for the first 47 overs of day four, as India added 234 before declaring on 430 for 4, giving England 40 minutes to bat before tea.
Yashasvi Jaiswal roused like the Undertaker, returning after retiring hurt on 104 the previous evening to flay a weary attack to all parts for his second double century in as many Tests. Had the passage after lunch been a Tarantino movie, the scenes would have flipped to black and white to censor the slaughter. Jaiswal and Sarfaraz Khan, two Mumbai maidan graduates, shook down what England's bowlers had left with a multi-generational thrashing.
James Anderson's second of a three-over spell after lunch was struck for 21 - the most the 41-year-old has conceded in an over since George Bailey pummelled 28 off him at Perth in 2013. The difference this time was the three sixes contained within it came in a row; Jaiswal flicking a low yorker over fine leg, a slower delivery launched over cover, then back over the bowler's head.
That Anderson was operating with a 7-2 field to the left-handed Jaiswal and a 2-7 field to the right-handed Sarfaraz, spoke of the turmoil England were enduring. They were neither trying to take wickets nor keeping the runs down - simply using their crown jewel to prise open a door that had already closed on them.
Jaiswal blitzed Root for back-to-back sixes, equalling the record of 12 in a single innings. Sarfaraz was then tagged in to pummel 19-year-old Rehan Ahmed, striking six, four and six in what turned out to be the final over of the third innings. The legspinner did at least register in the wicket column, removing nightwatch Kuldeep Yadav to finish with 1 for 108 from 25 overs.
"I think Rehan can hold his head high and say many people would have shied away from doing that, at two set batters who are obviously looking to come really hard," Stokes said in his post-match press conference. "He stood up, it didn't work out. He got tapped for a few. But that's what it is. It'll do him the world of good going forward."
What of the other, more experienced players? Recent history suggests a recalibration is coming. The Lord's failure of 2023 was followed by a more refined batting performance that overturned Australia's 2-0 lead, eventually securing a draw with victory in the fifth Test at the Kia Oval after rain scuppered any chance of a result in the fourth in Manchester.
Stokes got the team together as soon as they returned to the dressing room, urging them not to dwell on the result. His message in private was reiterated during his press conference.
"We'll make sure that we're moving on and focusing on what we've got coming up ahead, because games can be won and lost in the head. We'll be leaving all the emotion and disappointment from this week, and moving on to the next one."
That will be its own challenge. They arrived in Rajkot refreshed and re-enthused after the defeat in Visakhapatnam following a six-day break in Abu Dhabi. Now they look like they could do with another holiday after spending the last couple of days chasing leather in the hottest conditions of the tour so far.
India, by contrast, seem a different, familiar beast. Even with four changes to their XI here, and more to come, they now have a good gauge on England. They are more certain in their plans. Rohit Sharma more nerveless in the field. They are returning to the dominant force that has been unbeaten in home series since 2013.
And perhaps most damning for the tourists is India seem to be beating them at their own game. England managed just five sixes to India's 28 - more than they hit in the previous two matches combined, and a new record for any Test team.
To put it Bumrah's way - now, India are hitting.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo