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Karachi nights and Mumbai magic: six of England's best Test wins in Asia this century

After a famous win in Chennai, we take a look at some of England's best recent Test performances in Asia

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Graham Thorpe and Nasser Hussain took England home in the dark in Karachi in 2000  •  Getty Images

Graham Thorpe and Nasser Hussain took England home in the dark in Karachi in 2000  •  Getty Images

England's crushing win over India in Chennai was their sixth in a row away from home - and also their sixth in Asia, going back to 2018-19. All have come under Joe Root, who currently has a remarkable 100% record in the subcontinent. Once a hard sell for England, they have become increasingly adept at touring in this part of the world. Here we look back at six other famous wins in Asia this century.
England only won 12 Tests in Asia between 1933 (India's first on home soil) and 2000 - and none at all in the preceding 15 years - but a memorable winter in Pakistan and Sri Lanka was to prove the turning point. Nasser Hussain's side set off in good spirits and a clear game plan to take the Tests in Pakistan as deep as possible, securing high-scoring draws in Lahore (the last time before Chennai that England had batted into day three of a Test unaffected by rain) and Faisalabad. Then came the series-sealing victory in the dark in Karachi. First, England ground their way towards parity on the back of Mike Atherton's ten-hour 125; then, when Pakistan slipped to 158 all out on the final afternoon, they stole off with the game thanks to Graham Thorpe's cool head - plus a little help from Steve Bucknor. Cue "Who Let the Dogs Out" in the away dressing room.
Hussain's England carried lessons of victory in Pakistan to Sri Lanka a few months later, though this was a very different series. Hammered in the first Test in Galle, they bounced back in Kandy, amid umpiring controversy and complaints about behaviour on both sides. For the decider at the SSC, England were again reliant on the understated genius of Thorpe as they prevailed in a low-scoring scrap. Hussain lost the toss, but England's bowlers fought back on day one to limit Sri Lanka to 241 after they had been 205 for 3, and Thorpe marshalled the response with a masterful, unbeaten 113 (none of his team-mates scored more than 26). Sitting on a slim lead, England then blitzed the home side for 81, with Darren Gough and Ashley Giles coming to the fore. Chasing 74 on a Bunsen was never going to be straightforward, though, and it needed Thorpe to get them home again - his 32 not out "like getting a hundred in each innings".
One of the great one-off victories, as an England side shorn of Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Alastair Cook (who was taken ill two games after his debut in Nagpur) and Steve Harmison, and being led by a stand-up captain in Andrew Flintoff, bounced back to level the series in dramatic fashion on the final afternoon at the Wankhede. They benefited from some generosity, after Rahul Dravid's decision to insert them allowed England to stack up 400, underpinned by a century from Andrew Strauss; James Anderson (yes, the same one) then took four wickets as India posted 279 in reply. However, after Flintoff's second fifty of the match saw the hosts set 313 in just over three sessions, the game seemed to be heading for a draw, India 75 for 3 at lunch. Then Flintoff stuck "Ring of Fire" on the CD player, and England ran through Sachin Tendulkar and Co in 15.2 overs - 37-year-old Shaun Udal the hero with 4 for 11.
England remain the last visiting team to win a Test series in India, and they did so in 2012-13 despite a drubbing in the opening encounter in Ahmedabad. Cook, however, had led the resistance in the first Test with 176, and he backed that up with another century in Mumbai, on a livelier surface that brought England's spinners into the contest. But, undoubtedly, the difference between the teams on this occasion was some Kevin Pietersen magic, as he peppered the Wankhede boundaries on the way to a majestic 186 from 233 balls. Pietersen had been struggling against left-arm spin, in particular, but took on Pragyan Ojha, R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh to blistering effect as England gained an 86-run lead. Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar then rattled out all ten India wickets in the second innings - they shared 19 in the match - as England completed a comfortable win inside four days.
England had to chase the game at Eden Gardens, too, after MS Dhoni won the toss for the third time in a row. But India could only manage 316, as Anderson and Panesar continued to harry them, and then it was over to Cook once again, as the opener compiled his third hundred in succession - and fifth in five Tests at captain. Cook was eventually run-out for 190, as England sailed past India's score three down, with their eventual total of 523 giving them an iron grip on the Test. Anderson picked up another three-for in the second innings and only an unbeaten 91 from Ashwin prevented England from winning by an innings. The tourists sealed the series by batting their way to a draw in Nagpur a few days later - a game largely memorable for the debut of a certain JE Root at No. 6.
Root's England have won five Tests in a row in Sri Lanka, but arguably none was more satisfying than their most recent victory. Root lost the toss twice in Galle, but while Sri Lanka threw the game away early in the first Test by being bowled out for 135, they put in an improved showing the second time around, as Angelo Mathews' century took them to 381 - England again reliant on Anderson to stay competitive in alien conditions, as he became the oldest seamer to claim a Test five-for in Asia on the way to immaculate figures of 6 for 40. With Root in fabulous touch, following up his first-Test 224 with an eight-hour 186 in sapping heat, England battled their way to 344 and a deficit of 37; the spin pair of Jack Leach and Dom Bess, wicketless in the first innings, then found their range to skittle Sri Lanka for 126, before Dom Sibley's unbeaten half-century settled the nerves in a tricky chase.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick