It doesn’t get much better
At the start of this match we were all saying “if we compete well then that’s amazing” by the end it was “well England have them 150-6 should they have declared earlier?” Right there shows just how good England has been over the past week. What happened in between you ask? Well 5 days of the best test cricket England have played in a long time.
Day 1 began, Root won the toss and England were 63-0. Then at 63-2 (i prefer not to speak about what happened) and Joe Root looking somewhat timid against the great Ishant Sharma things were on a knife edge. Well, England didn’t collapse, they didn’t go at it and cave in and they didn’t give India wickets. Instead they batted in a true test match fashion with no silly shots and no ‘going through the gears’. Root accumulated and hit his 20th test match 100 and for the third time in a row he made it count. Sibley fell to the final ball of the day but showed true grit and fight by grinding out his 87 and showed us all that he is a true test match batsmen who even through the face of adversity is here to stay for long long time.
As the second day began Stokes joined Root and the crease and well it was pretty simple. Bat. Then bat a bit more. Joe Root became the first ever player to score a double hundred in his 100th test match, the second captain after Bradman to score 2 consecutive test scores of 150 and 175 and then joined Bradman and Sangakkara as the only 3 players to make 3 consecutive scores of 175. Stokes batting for the first time in what felt like forever looked like his old self hitting 6's for fun and if he's like that now imagine what he'll be like come the end of the year. Eventually he holed out to Pujara but he had left his mark on the game. Then England could’ve faltered. Ollie Pope was tetchy with his movement and never quite hit it off the middle but he powered through to a respectable 34. Then Buttler joined Root before the latter missed a straight one (no blaming him to be fair). Buttler then left a beauty from Ishant and Archer was cleaned up first ball. Now this was my moment of the game (minus any Shubman Gill boundaries or the Kohli back foot punch the members of @Gazzacc know how much joy that wonderful opener gave me) Dom Bess and Jack Leach combined and sucked all the life out of India and took it to day 3. This was so crucial in that moment. A 9th wicket partnership annoys the pants off any side as they are already thinking about batting and the Spin Twins did it to India and took whatever fight back they had in them out and threw it in the bin. If Leach or Bess had fallen early all of a sudden India feel on top and the game could’ve gone differently. But Leach and Bess didn’t allow this to happen and that was my moment of the past 5 days (joking it was the Kohli backfoot punch of off Stokes i mean CMMMONNNN)
Then day 3 came about and Jofra bowled beautifully beating Rohit Sharma for pace on a truly docile wicket. Dom Bess joined the party and showed just how good he can be with his flight, drift and turn. Bess gets wickets with pies it just happens, except in the first Indian innings he earnt the right, as a young blossoming off spinner, to bowl a few shin high full tosses with the other beauties he bowled far more consistently than he had done in the past. Leach was “destroyed” by Pant but as George Dobell pointed out on Twitter Leach has faced far worse challenges than Pant but ultimately Pant came out on top and played his true game. I do feel England took the right option with Pant which was to let him do his thing knowing eventually he will fall. Somedays it works otherdays he hits 91 off 80 odd and thats the way the game goes. Pant hit one from Bess straight up and was caught leaving Ashwin and Sundar to battle it out.
Day 4 started somewhat flat for England as Ashwin and Sundar provided the Leach and Bess partnership for India. Soon though India were bowled out, the last wicket falling to a superb catch to Stokes. Burns was out first ball but between then and Ollie Pope getting out England were superb, scoring at a good rate and consistently building large amounts of pressure. Then Pope got out and the confusion began. Bess and Buttler slowed down (Bess padding away a maiden was one moment which annoyed a few) and some “journalists'' started having a go at Root for how late on he decided to declare. At the time even i myself was annoyed thinking well we want to get at these guys tonight, but Roots reasoning of wanting the hard ball, wanting there only to be 2 possible results and him having ‘spent more time at the wicket than anyone’ absolutely makes sense and well ultimately it worked and Roots captaincy was impeccable throughout. Late on day 4 Root declared with India needing 420 to win and as ever England fans started to get worried. Until a moment of magic from Jack Leach. All the trouble Leach has gone through, whether it be criticism of his action, being doubted by captains and of course his battle with Crohn’s disease, every battle he faced was worth it for this moment. A beautiful flighted delivery pitching leg hit top of off and Rohit Sharma was gone! The perfect end to the day.
Day 5 and we were all nervous. Unable to control ourselves with the thought that we may just win! Leach began with another beauty to get rid of Pujara but Gill and Kohli looked right at home with the former tucking into a 3 course meal of Dom Bess full tosses to reach his half century. Oh no they’ll actually draw this. Then just out of frame Jimmy (only bowls well with clouds) Anderson started limbering up. Ahhh good tactics Root! Jimmy bowl tight… wait. Andersons first ball Gill reversed and it reversed big. Oh. Moments later and Gills off stump was out the ground from an absolute peach. Rahane walked to the crease and England had their tails up. A huge LBW shout rightfully given not out but Anderson didn’t care Rahane suffered the same treatment as Shubman and all of a sudden game on. Jimmy followed it up with the big wicket of Pant and the goat had bowled one of the great spells by an English bowler. Now Dom Bess, having bowled some absolute dross since his first innings dance stepped up and gave Washington Sundar an absolute firecracker that fizzed past the outside edge and into the safe hands of Jos. Ashwin walked out and was seemingly the perfect man to pair Kohli who was motoring along. Well then Jack Leach had enough and another excellent catch by Buttler meant Ashwin was walking back to the pavilion. Ladies and Gentlemen this is really happening. Kohli though wasn’t going down without a fight so England called on their heavyweight champion and boy oh boy did Ben Stokes deliver. A few boundaries don’t matter because Stokes got one in the perfect area it kept low and Virat, along with any hopes of survival, was gone. Leach claimed his 4th and Archer his first of the innings and well England had won. England had only gone and beaten India in Chennai. No team does this like no one beats India in India especially at Chennai and especially not a side the large majority of whom were making their first appearances.
This tour is already a resounding success in my mind and it makes me ecstatic to think that this England side can only get better. Despite some keyboard warriors becoming annoyed at a production company for not being able to string together a multi million pound project in the space of 2 days or there being a few too many awards, it was the best 4am start I've ever had. 5 days of England being totally dominant. 5 days of everyone contributing. 5 days of pure elation and now a few days revelling in the glory before we start from square one. Well it really doesn’t get much better.