At Visakhapatnam, November 17-21, 2016. India won by 246 runs. Toss: India. Test debut: J. Yadav.
Test cricket was played among the verdant hills of coastal Visakhapatnam for the first time, but for India there was a distinct sense of familiarity. This game fitted a template established over four years of home dominance: win the toss, compile a formidable first innings total, then weave a spinners' web on a pitch of ever-diminishing returns. England were powerless to escape.
Kohli loomed large throughout his 50th Test, starting with some none-too-subtle instructions to groundsman Kasturi Sriram following the stalemate in Rajkot, where grass on the pitch had displeased him. Here, the only grass - imported from St Lucia - was on the outfield, and it was too lush to aid England's quest for significant reverse swing. Kohli made his 14th Test century, captained with aggression, if frenetically at times, and finished the game with 248 runs, two more than India's margin of victory.
It all meant that, while Ashwin picked up eight wickets, including his 22nd Test five-for, the oversized cheque at the presentation ceremony was Kohli's. It was his first match award in 19 Tests in charge. The scoreline said little about England's fight over four and a half days, but plenty about their batting either side of tea on the second, when they subsided to 80 for five in reply to India's 455 (though keeping them below 500 had - from 351 for four - been a minor triumph for the tourists). The procession began when Cook's off stump was snapped like a breadstick by Mohammed Shami, before Hameed played fall guy in a farcical run-out.
Duckett endured the first of two torture-chamber innings against Ashwin, and Root - having batted with authority for 53 - holed out to mid-off. Ali became a first Test victim for the debutant off-spinner Jayant Yadav. With the next rain forecast for January, a 1-0 lead for India was inevitable. The coup de graˆce came when Anderson was trapped by Jayant on review 20 minutes after lunch on the fifth day - the first to register a king pair for England since Ernie Hayes in Cape Town in 1905-06, and the first to 21 Test ducks for them (Anderson had gone 54 innings, and more than six years from his debut in 2003, without one). It was also his side's tenth lbw in the match, another England record. More importantly, they had been bowled out for 158 in the 98th over of the fourth innings, chasing - or, more accurately, scorning - a target of 405. Thus the tongue-twisting Dr Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACAVDCA Cricket Stadium began life as India's 25th Test venue (and the third new one in three matches) with a textbook home triumph. As holidaymakers remained mostly on the promenade, it was a pity the ground came close to threatening its 25,000 capacity only on the fourth day.
Anderson's return for the rested Chris Woakes, after 13 weeks out because of the shoulder injury that dogged his summer, was a boon for England, as first-innings figures of three for 62 confirmed. But from the moment Cook lost the toss, there was a sense of foreboding; even he said his side now had "nothing to lose" on a surface tipped by the groundsman to turn from tea on the second day. As it transpired, variable bounce proved the greatest challenge.
As well as awarding Jayant his first cap, in place of leg-spinner Amit Mishra, India restored Rahul as opener after a hamstring injury, with Gautam Gambhir dropping out. Rahul's return lasted just five balls: in the second over, Broad had him fencing to slip. Anderson then bounced out Vijay in the fifth to make it 22 for two, but Broad was soon off the field after reopening a wound on his right wrist, and would later hobble off with a strained tendon in his right foot. His early absence meant Cook turned to spin by the 11th over, but Ansari's introduction at the Dr Vizzy End brought a palpable release of pressure, allowing Pujara and Kohli to set about a stand of 226, more than double the game's next best. And, like Broad, Ansari was not in good shape, suffering illness and back spasms, and bowled only 12 overs in the match.
The Indian pair were immense. While Pujara's 119 was a controlled innings of dancing feet to the spinners, 12 crisply timed fours and two murderous sixes - the second of which, as Rashid dropped short after tea, brought up his third century in successive Tests, and tenth overall - Kohli's 167 oozed purpose from the outset. He celebrated each milestone in the subdued fashion of a batsman with an eye on the bigger picture. Even attempts to bore him into submission with packed off-side fields did not work: he simply found a way through with laser precision.
Aside from a stray dog entering the fray to fertilise the outfield and bring about an early tea, with both men in the nineties, Kohli's one lapse in concentration came when he had 56. A short-ball barrage from Stokes produced a mistimed pull towards long leg, where Rashid dived forward but couldn't hold on. It was a mistake England would rue for the rest of the Test. Did Cook not want a safer pair of hands in place for the plan? Like the absent gully that gave Ashwin, yet to score, a let-off during Anderson's burst with the second new ball late in the day, it felt a big oversight. Some redemption for Rashid would come on the second day, when he and Ali shared five wickets - including Kohli, caught at slip by Stokes the ball after he had dropped Ashwin on 17. But a total of 455 still required England's batsmen to respond in kind.
Instead, Cook received that jaffa from Shami, and the run-out of Hameed, courtesy of Root's late refusal of a second, and Jayant's smart work at square leg, caused panic. Stokes and Bairstow demonstrated what was possible, first resisting until stumps, then stretching their stand to 110 in 44 overs on the third morning, by which time England's sixth wicket had broken their all-wicket record for most runs in a calendar year (overtaking the 1,704 added by the fourth in 2015). But the damage had been done; when Umesh Yadav yorked Bairstow shortly before lunch, they were back in the mire at 190 for six.
Ashwin then won three lbw shouts and, for the first time against England, raised the ball in celebration of a five-for. He would finish the game top of the Test wicket-taking list for the year, passing Rangana Herath's 54 for Sri Lanka. India led by 200, but Kohli gave no thought to the follow-on. Instead, he transcended the conditions with a majestic 81 out of 204, though even that total required a last-wicket stand of 42. Despite his injured foot, Broad's leg-cutters exploited an increasingly capricious pitch to claim four for 33 - easily his best figures in India, which wasn't saying much - while Rashid collected four more himself. But England's spirited response made a draw less likely: they now needed to survive at least 150 overs.
For more than 50, spread across three hours, the openers resisted, to the growing frustration of Kohli, who burned two reviews in quick succession. Hameed, struck on the glove first ball by Shami, gave a demonstration of his adhesive qualities over 144 balls, before falling to a grubber from Ashwin. But the hammer blow to England's hopes came in the final over of the day, when Cook - who had compiled his slowest Test fifty, from 171 balls - was hit in front by Jadeja, and reviewed in vain. It meant Duckett striding out with Root on the last morning, but with little sense of optimism following his first-innings working-over by Ashwin. This time, he needed just six balls to get him, for the third time in a row, a half-hearted sweep popping up via glove to Saha.
From there - and with the exception of the insatiable Bairstow - the innings disintegrated, as the trickery of Ashwin, the skiddy left-arm of Jadeja, and the bounding Jayant picked away the stitches, and the guts came tumbling out. Cook later revealed the plan had been to recreate South Africa's block fest in Delhi the previous year, when they made 143 at one an over (and still lost). Emboldened by victory, Kohli damned his opponents for a lack of intent that allowed his spinners to swarm. It all felt immaterial. Like the old submarine on Visakhapatnam's Ramakrishna Mission Beach, England's chances had long since been decommissioned.
Man of the Match: V. Kohli