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Match reports

India v England, 2016-17

Wisden's review of the third Test, India v England, 2016-17

Lawrence Booth
Lawrence Booth
At Mohali, November 26-29, 2016. India won by eight wickets. Toss: England. Test debut: K. K. Nair.
Visitors to neighbouring Chandigarh have often gone the extra mile to leave their mark. In the 1950s, the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier rebuilt the city along its distinctive grid system, while the West Indians settled for winning the inaugural Test here in 1994-95.
Otherwise, tourists have drawn a blank. There was a brief period on the second afternoon, as India lost three for eight, when England stirred, but the rebellion was quickly crushed. In this most orderly of Indian cities, Kohli's men ended up taking a bloodless route to a four-day victory - and a 2-0 lead.
England's defeat at Visakhapatnam had been hastened by the toss, but they had no such excuse here, and the result gave Kohli ammunition against those who claimed India were less potent when they batted second. England, on the other hand, were careless with the bat, and mainly toothless with the ball. Cook looked disorientated in the post-match press conference, admitting he had gone in with the wrong team - Batty spent much of the game impersonating a statue at deep cover - and drawing the only credible conclusion: his side had been outmanoeuvred at every turn.
To compound English fears that the tour was beginning to unravel, Hameed broke his left little finger. It had been hit by Mohammed Shami during the previous Test, and now Umesh Yadav repeated the dose with a snorter that flew to gully on the first morning. Scans revealed a fracture but, coming in at No. 8 on the fourth day, Hameed played an innings so full of courage and class that England were unsure whether to laugh or cry: a prince had arrived, all too briefly. Despite his protestations, he would play no further part in the series.
His determination further exposed what had come before. During that first morning - amid a gentle haze, on a pitch at its best, with a series to be squared - England had limped to lunch on 92 for four. Hameed was blameless, but Root fell to the first ball after drinks, misjudging a pull off Jayant Yadav, and Cook contrived to edge Ashwin's opener, a wide loosener he would normally hit for four. As if trying to outdo both, Ali hooked Shami to fine leg ten minutes before the break - reminiscent of the shot that all but cost David Gower his Test career at Adelaide in 1990-91. It was as mindless a session as England had endured all tour.
In the afternoon, Stokes ran past a straight one from Jadeja to make it 144 for five, pausing to return an expletive to Kohli in India's celebratory huddle, and earning a demerit point from the ICC (Kohli escaped scot-free). Bairstow and Buttler, picked as a specialist batsman for his first Test in over a year after replacing Ben Duckett, added 69. But on 43 Buttler chipped to Kohli, making swift ground from short cover to intercept a lofted drive at mid-off; and on 89 Bairstow fell lbw on review to Jayant, having been dropped behind the previous ball. Woakes, back for Stuart Broad, who was nursing his right foot, hustled to 25, but England's close-of-play 268 for eight was an opportunity wasted. Next morning, they were all out for 283.
The only surprise before lunch on the second day came when Vijay walked for a catch behind off Stokes after umpire Gaffaney had declined the appeal. But when India reached 148 for two at tea, their reply was taking as predictable a course as one of Le Corbusier's streets. Instead, Pujara swung a Rashid long hop towards deep midwicket, where Woakes held a superb tumbling catch, and Rahane's poor form was prolonged by Rashid's googly When the debutant Karun Nair was sent back by Kohli, only to be beaten by an alert throw from point by Buttler, India were 156 for five. The English contingent in a modest crowd began clearing their throats.
The equation seemed straightforward: get Kohli quickly, and England would have a potentially decisive first-innings lead. The first part went well. Stokes returned to find his edge, and celebrated with a self-mocking hand over mouth. Only the bowlers stood in England's way, yet - like exhibits in the nearby Rock Garden - they refused to budge. By the close, Ashwin and Jadeja had taken India within 12 of England, and next morning extended their stand to 97, before Ashwin drove Stokes to backward point. But Jadeja kept going, past his previous Test best (68 at Lord's in 2014), and Jayant got stuck in.
By the time England removed Jadeja for 90, caught at long-on off Rashid, India had regained control. For the first time, their Nos 7-9 all made fifties in the same Test innings. It was the game's most telling passage. Their eventual 417 would have been par for the team batting first; as it was, they led by 134. England's only consolations were statistical: Stokes completed his third Test five-for (and first outside the Ashes), while Umesh was Bairstow's 68th dismissal in 2016, the most by a Test wicketkeeper in a calendar year. Other numbers simply confirmed their misreading of the pitch: while Rashid got through 38 overs of probing leg-breaks, their two off-spinners, Ali and Batty - recalled for Zafar Ansari, who had a bad back but would have been dropped anyway - combined for only 29. Once more, England seemed a player short.
With Hameed beavering away in the nets like a scientist in a garden shed, trying to discover a grip that eased the pressure on his finger, Root walked out to open with Cook - an unexpected reprise of the 2013 Ashes. But the returnee looked more at home than the incumbent: Cook played the spinners as if in a darkened room, narrowly surviving a Jadeja review for leg-before, then overturning a successful lbw appeal from Ashwin next ball he faced. On 12, he was put out of his misery, playing outside the line of an Ashwin delivery that was more arm-ball than off-break. It barely registered that Cook had passed Steve Waugh to move into the top ten of Test cricket's highest scorers.
Ali had batted at No. 4 in the first innings for the first time in Tests, and now came in at No. 3 for the first time too, though it was his position at Worcestershire. Like Wilfred Rhodes and Trevor Bailey, he had thus filled every Test slot in the top nine, and immediately auditioned for the role of No. 10 with a lame chip to mid-on off Ashwin, who had foxed him in the flight. Bairstow edged Jayant, and England closed the third day on 78 for four after Stokes was hit on the back leg by Ashwin, who sensibly asked for a review. Kohli ostentatiously put his finger to his lips - stirring things up even while apparently calming them down. He needn't have bothered: England were speechless in any case.
A hasty defeat beckoned when nightwatchman Batty fell in the second over of the fourth day, and Buttler swung Jayant to deep midwicket to make it 107 for six. But Root was in the mood for a scrap, completing his slowest Test half-century since his debut, from 147 balls, and Hameed knuckled down too. Had Rahane not pulled off a reflex one-handed slip catch shortly before lunch to snaffle Root for 78, India might have got twitchy. As it was, they were merely made to sweat. Having defended his way to 17 from 110 balls, Hameed nailed a slog-sweep for four off Ashwin. And, after losing Woakes and Rashid in the same over to short balls from Shami, he set about the stroke with abandon, moving to a valiant fifty - also from 147 balls - by hammering Ashwin for six. By the time Anderson was run out attempting a second, Hameed had 59, earning a handshake from Kohli. India needed 103.
Woakes removed Vijay for a duck, edging to a widish second slip, but wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel - in for the injured Wriddhaman Saha - was enjoying his chance to open in his first Test for eight years (his 83-game absence was an Indian record), and crashed a 39-ball fifty. Rashid winkled out Pujara but, with more than an hour to go before stumps, Patel supplied the finishing touch. India had avoided a series defeat against England for the first time since 2008-09. England, meanwhile, found themselves propelled to No. 2 in the Test rankings following Australia's defeat at home by South Africa - which didn't say much for the rankings. Explaining his decision to commission Le Corbusier, the former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru once said: "The one thing which India requires in many fields is being hit on the head so that it may think." But only one side left Chandigarh with a headache.
Man of the Match: R. A. Jadeja.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Daily Mail. His fourth book, What Are The Butchers For? And Other Splendid Cricket Quotations, is published in October 2009 by A&C Black