England's nine-wicket defeat to India in the second Test, and the prospect of a second series defeat in Asia this winter, has left Andrew Flintoff's inexperienced side needing to win a Test at a venue where England have been beaten on their previous three visits.
The third and final Test begins in Bombay on Saturday and the omens are not good. Before the series the Wankhede Stadium was identified as the ground that would suit India's spin-orientated style most, and one only has to look at the last Test match played there, where the Australian and Indian spinners shared 29 wickets, to see why.
The margin of victory in Mohali probably flatters India, but the ease in which Rahul Dravid's side dismissed England for 181 in their second innings, then scored the 144 runs they required to move 1-0 up in the series, highlighted how much England need to improve if they are to be competitive on the subcontinent. England will not be considered as cricket's No 1 team unless they begin winning in Asia. Australia have achieved this on their past three visits.
Yet it would be unfair to lambast England for their performance over the final three days. Injury and family issues have robbed the team of four of its most influential players, and it has left Flintoff captaining the youngest side to represent England in a Test match.
Teams that are bowled out for 181 in the second innings of a Test rarely win but it was England's lower-order batting in the first innings that cost them the game. On the third morning England, with two recognised batsmen at the crease, had advanced to 283 for 5, a position from which 400 should be achieved.
But Anil Kumble and Munaf Patel, India's star bowlers, turned 283 for 5 into 300 all out and the hosts were right back in the match. When India batted Flintoff and Stephen Harmison were outstanding with the ball. The pair extracted pace and bounce but as they tired, batting became easier and India's lower order doubled the team's score.
India exploited England's greenness superbly but it was one of their own debutants who made the greatest impression on the final day. Munaf Patel was rushed into the Indian squad after taking 10 wickets against England in the final warm-up game before the first Test, and yesterday he left Mohali with seven further wickets.
India has yielded several of the greatest spinners but, with the exception of Kapil Dev and Javegal Srinath, they have struggled to produced high-quality fast bowlers. However, on first viewing, it appears they have unearthed a special talent in Munaf. Munaf has a smooth, high, easy-to-repeat bowling action that can generate speeds of up to 90mph and, at the age of 22, he has already cracked the art of reverse swing.
Dravid surprised many when he invited him to open the bowling yesterday ahead of Harbhajan Singh, but in his first over we witnessed why. England began the day with a lead of 74 and Geraint Jones extended it to 78 when he drove the first ball to the cover boundary. Jones's fun did not last long and, four balls later, he could do no more than deflect a quicker ball on to the stumps.
It gave England the worst possible start. England had been hoping that Flintoff and Jones, who have shared five century partnerships, would bat for the majority of the morning session. With Jones out and only the tail-enders to come, India now had an end at which to bowl. Munaf made short work of Liam Plunkett and Matthew Hoggard, who were both dismissed by reverse-swing inswinging yorkers. With only Harmison and Monty Panesar left, Flintoff resisted the temptation to slog and continued to bat responsibly. Harmison provided his captain with valuable support and the pair frustrated India for more than hour while 42 runs were added.
Flintoff posted his second fifty of the match before Harmison dragged his foot out of the crease attempting to sweep Kumble and was brilliantly stumped down the leg side. With only Monty Panesar left, Flintoff had no option but to try to clear the ropes but his first heave gave Piyush Chawla, India's 17 year-old leg-spinner, a maiden wicket when Munaf took a good catch in the deep.
If England were to produce something remarkable, they needed to strike early. Harmison, Hoggard and Flintoff charged in for one final effort but the wickets failed to come. Hoggard trapped Wasim Jaffer plumb in front with India requiring 105, and Virender Sehwag and Dravid suffered a few worrying moments, but it soon became clear that the game had gone. Flintoff and England seemed to accept this from quite early on, opting instead to save Harmison, Hoggard and himself for one final effort in Bombay.
England won toss; final day of five
England - First Innings 300 (A Flintoff 70, K P Pietersen 64, G O Jones 52; A Kumble 5-76).
India - First Innings 338 (R Dravid 95, I K Pathan 52; A Flintoff 4-96).
England - First Innings
(Overnight: 112 for 5)
*A Flintoff c Patel b Chawla 51
152 min, 106 balls, 4 fours
ÝG O Jones b Patel 5
9 min, 7 balls, 1 four
L E Plunkett lbw b Patel 1
15 min, 12 balls
M J Hoggard b Patel 4
18 min, 15 balls
S J Harmison st Dhoni b Kumble 13
68 min, 49 balls, 2 fours
M S Panesar not out 0
3 min, 4 balls
Extras (lb10 w1 nb6) 17
Total (312 min, 76.1 overs) 181
Fall (cont): 6-116 (Jones) 7-124 (Plunkett) 8-139 (Hoggard) 9-181 (Harmison) 10-181 (Flintoff).
Bowling: Pathan 6-1-16-0 (nb1 w1) (3-1-6-0, 3-0-10-0); Patel 13-4-25-4 (nb1) (5-2-10-1, 8-2-15-3); Harbhajan Singh 23-5-52-1 (14-3-28-1, 5-2-9-0, 4-0-15-0); Kumble 29-6-70-4 (nb4) (8-1-18-1, 16-3-45-2, 5-2-7-1); Chawla 5.1-2-8-1 (4-2-7-0, 1.1-0-1-1).
Progress: Fifth day (9.30am start, min 98 overs): 150: 258 min, 63.4 overs. Innings closed: 11.20am.
Bell's 50: 121 min, 97 balls, 7 fours. Flintoff's 50: 137 min, 99 balls, 4 fours.
India - Second Innings
W Jaffer lbw b Hoggard 17
44 min, 32 balls, 3 fours
V Sehwag not out 76
147 min, 89 balls, 9 fours, 1 six
*R S Dravid not out 42
102 min, 77 balls, 3 fours
Extras (b4 lb5) 9
Total (for 1, 147 min, 33 overs) 144
Fall: 1-39 (Jaffer).
Did not bat: S R Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, ÝM S Dhoni, I K Pathan, A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, P Chawla, M M Patel.
Bowling: Harmison 4-1-10-0; Hoggard 8-2-24-1 (one spell each); Panesar 11-0-48-0 (2-0-15-0, 9-0-33-0); Flintoff 5-0-11-0 (2-0-5-0, 3-0-6-0); Plunkett 2-0-22-0, Collingwood 3-1-20-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Fifth day: Lunch: 28-0 (Jaffer 15, Sehwag 9) 7 overs. 50: 55 min, 12 overs. 100: 118 min, 25.3 overs. India won at 2.38pm.
Sehwag's 50: 119 min, 69 balls, 7 fours.
India win by nine wickets.
Man of the match: A Kumble.
Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and S Taufel (Aus).
TV replay umpire: A V Jayaprakash.
Match referee: R S Madugalle.Reuse content