Chennai: Veteran James Anderson’s artistic spell of reverse swing trumped Virat Kohli’s show of grit as England decimated India in the opening Test by a comprehensive 227-run margin here on Tuesday.
A target of 420, with 381 left on a fifth day worn out Chepauk track, was always a tough ask going by cricketing logic and Anderson’s mid-morning burst blew away the Indian middle-order. In the end, the hosts could manage only 192 in 58.1 overs.
That spell ensured that there wasn’t a Sydney like heist or the magic of Brisbane final day which many had hoped for despite the world record target.
Kohli (72 off 104 balls) seemed like a lonely general standing on a burning deck as he showed his colleagues how to bat on a difficult track.
He covered the swing and shuffled towards the off-stump to counter Anderson, ran purposefully and scored his runs against spinners.
But there was that one ball that was always going to keep low and he got that from Ben Stokes.
Courtesy Anderson (11-4-17-3), the match became a mismatch within an hour and India now need to win two out of the next three Tests to qualify for the World Test Championship final in June.
It was left-arm spinner Jack Leach (26-4-76-4), who after his first innings humilation at the hands of Rishabh Pant, finished with the best figures but the effort paled in comparison to the effect that Anderson had on the psyche of the Indian team.
Anderson sowed doubts among rank and file of the home line-up, whether they had the technique to play the moving ball which swings the other way round. Kohli can but can his colleagues do it will be the big question going forward.
The man from Burnley, in his 19th Test match season, showed his artistry with a semi-new ball, on a fifth day track and sapping Chennai heat, far removed conditions from the grey skies and cool breeze that Old Trafford gives him.
But then Anderson is a devotee and best practitioner of Test match ethos and doesn’t need to take refuge in conditions because of his supreme control over his craft.
Wasim Akram made reverse swing fashionable as a pro in Lancashire and Anderson spent his teenage years watching the ‘Sultan of Swing’ practice his craft.
But what he did on Tuesday would have certainly made Akram proud as the Indian batting line-up, save Kohli, didn’t have an idea as to how they could stop Anderson.
When he made his Test debut, Shubman Gill was in play-school and Rishabh Pant in nursery.
At 38 years 194 days and in his 158th Test match, Anderson became an example of why one can never discount experience.
Ishant Sharma, on first two days, bowled a few spells of lively reverse swing. What Ishant did well, Anderson just did that way better.
Gill (50, 83 balls) once again looked dazzling till the time he was at the crease. The sinewy wrists were in play as he hit seven fours and a six, dealing with spinners comfortably.
Even Cheteshwar Pujara’s (15 off 38 balls) dismissal off Jack Leach’s “peach” didn’t unfaze the young man from Punjab as he along with Kohli calmly went about their business.
It was the 27th over when Anderson first came into the attack and the second ball was a perfect reverse inswinger which had Gill in a daze as the off-stump went for a walk.
The way the shiny part on the inside tailed in was a sight to behold.
Rahane (0), for all the appreciation coming his way, was in very poor form for the better part of the Australia series, save a hundred at MCG where he was dropped thrice.
The first ball he faced on Tuesday was another one that came back a shade and it was hitting the middle of the middle stump with the Umpires’ Call saving the vice-captain of what looked like a plumb leg before.
The wily Anderson realised that an out-of-form Rahane’s feet are not moving.
The next time he just went a shade wide off the crease and delivered another reverse inswinger. Rahane knew that there was no comeback.
Pant (11) has had three great knocks but he was facing a bowler with supreme game awareness and immaculate understanding of conditions.
Against a left-hander, he predictably came round the wicket and angled a few in with a busy Pant hitting a boundary.
By then, Anderson had gauged that Pant could be hurried on the drive.
So the master changed his tactic and bowled a slower one enticing Pant to go for a drive.
Pant tried his best to check it but the bowler had asked his skipper Joe Root to specifically stand at short cover for that particular shot.
From 92 for 2, it was 110 for five and Kohli cut a lonely figure at the other end.
Washington Sundar (0) was then picked by Dom Bess with the one that turned away leaving India in complete tatters.