Not even a ninth Test half-century of the year from Joe Root could prevent England from a catastrophic batting collapse that looks likely to condemn them to defeat in this match.
Indeed, with two days of this second Test gone, the situation is grim for Alastair Cook’s side. After India made 455 batting first on a pitch that is now taking significant turn, England collapsed to 80 for five in reply.
Only an unbeaten 23-run partnership between Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow prevented any further damage before the close. England reached stumps on 103 for five. But they are still 352 runs adrift of India’s first-innings total and it will take a partnership somewhere close to the 399 the pair out on in Cape Town in January to haul their team back into what is now a depressingly one-sided contest.
India were always favourites to win this series given they have won 12 of their past 14 Tests and are unbeaten on home soil in almost four years. England were buoyed by a fine performance in the drawn first Test in Rajkot last week. That, though, was a distant memory as they collapsed in a heap after tea on this second day, Haseeb Hameed, Ben Duckett, Root and Moeen Ali all following Cook back to the dressing-room as India took this match by the scruff of the neck.
Cook’s dismissal in the third over of his side’s reply, the opener’s off-stump split in half by a Mohammed Shami delivery he just played too late, set the tone for what ended up being a traumatic second half of the day for the tourists. Root was looking in fine touch as he punched Ravindra Jadeja through the legside for successive fours early in his innings. It was a positive sign following Cook’s dismissal that had left England four for one. Root had made a brilliant 124 in Rajkot to set up a dominant batting display.
But despite the Yorkshire batsman’s brilliance in reaching his half-century off 91 balls this was a collective performance with the bat more reminiscent of Dhaka, where England had lost all ten second-innings wickets inside a session to collapse to a famous defeat in the final Test by Bangladesh just over three weeks ago.
Hameed was run out for 13, too late to regain his ground after Root had refused a second run off Jadeja and left stranded after good work from debutant Jayant Yadav and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. England were 51 for two at that stage but 21 runs were added to that total before Duckett misjudged a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery that bowled him for five.
Root reached his fifty shortly afterwards but then threw his wicket away by charging Ashwin and hitting the world’s No1 bowler down the throat of Jayant at long-off. England were now 79 for four and that became 80 for five when Moeen, another who had scored a hundred in Rajkot, was given out lbw on review by Jayant.
That brought Stokes and Bairstow together and perhaps more relevant than their Cape Town stand were the 127 runs they shared in partnership to rescue England from 62 for five during their second innings against Bangladesh in Chittagong last month. Both batsmen have been in good form this year, with Stokes’ improvement against spin plain for all to see when he struck a first-innings century in Rajkot last week.
England will need them to produce again, otherwise defeat and a 1-0 series deficit heading into the final three Tests will surely be the only alternative. Moeen had threatened to get England back into this match with an incisive spell in the second morning session that saw him dismiss Virat Kohli, Saha and Jadeja in quick succession.
Kohli, who passed 150 the previous evening, was the victim of a brilliant slip catch from Stokes one delivery after he had dropped Ashwin, allowing India’s captain to get on strike. Still, his 167 runs had done much to get put his side in a strong position even if Moeen’s dismissals of Saha and Jadeja within 13 balls halted that progress slightly.
At that stage, with India collapsing from their overnight 317 for four to 363 for seven, England had realistic ambitions of restricting their opponents to a total under 400. However, Ashwin’s contribution with the bat has hurt England in this series, his 58 runs here following on from scores of 70 and 32 in Rajkot.
Ashwin shared a stand of 64 with Jayant either side of lunch that took his side’s total to 427 by the time he edged Stokes behind to Bairstow. Two wickets for the otherwise ineffective Adil Rashid mopped up India’s innings. Yet that only prompted the carnage of England’s innings that was only halted when Bairstow and Stokes came together.Reuse content