However, less than five days of Test cricket later, Joe Root’s men find themselves staring down the barrel. Not only are England all but out of the 3rd Test, but their hopes of making the final of the World Test Championship have also dwindled.
A shambolic batting display saw England bowled out for 112 in the second session, and India are only 13 runs away from wiping off the deficit in their first innings. Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin were the wreckers-in-chief, while Zak Crawley was the only batsman to offer any resistance.
Here are 3 mistakes England made on Day 1 of the 3rd Test against India.
Only one day has passed in this Test match, so it might be a bit premature to claim that England have got their team selection wrong. But it’s safe to say that the pitch will increasingly assist the spinners, and England have only one in their XI – Jack Leach.
Moeen Ali has been sent home, while their other off-spinner Dom Bess finds himself on the bench. If Ashwin and Axar didn’t do enough to make England regret their decision, Leach was the only visiting bowler to threaten. The left-arm spinner scalped two wickets and came close on a number of other occasions.
England’s pace trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer looked flaccid, although Archer did send Shubman Gill back to the hut with a teasing short ball. Root and the team management will rue their decision not to play two spinners after seeing how the track behaved on Day 1.
However, on a positive note, young Crawley impressed in Rory Burns’ absence. The opener played an array of crisp drives and flicks, notching up a half-century in an innings where the next highest score was Root’s 17.
After a pathetic batting display, England needed their bowlers and fielders to be at their best. Sadly, that wasn’t even close to happening.
A catch that went to Ben Stokes early in India’s innings was adjudged to have bounced before entering the all-rounder’s mitts, and a few casual efforts in the deep resulted in boundaries.
Then, in the final session, all hell broke loose. Ollie Pope nearly pulled off a blinder of a catch at forward short-leg after anticipating where a Rohit Sharma sweep would go. It was a half-chance at best, but it was the kind of opportunity that would’ve lifted the whole team had it been taken.
A few balls later, Pope shelled a sitter at gully after Virat Kohli steered a back-of-a-length ball from James Anderson carelessly. Although Jack Leach got the better of the Indian skipper before the close of play, the fielding effort typified England’s poor showing on Day 1.
The approach of the England batsmen was greatly criticised during the 2nd Test in Chennai, and it didn’t get any better in this match. In fact, the visiting batsmen were even less proactive against India’s spinners than in the last game.
After Crawley scored a flurry of boundaries against the pacers, Kohli introduced spin twins Ashwin and Axar. The duo had the England batsmen on a string throughout the innings.
The sweep was missing, and a reluctance to come down the track was evident. Very few scoring shots resulted in boundaries, and the English batsmen were caught on the crease in almost every dismissal.
Speaking about the lack of intent, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said the following:
“England came in after the big loss in Chennai with their mindset completely gone. Their mindset is ‘can we survive?’ and they are not looking to score runs. And on such a surface, you are not going to be able to survive where the odd balls are turning, and the odd balls are going straight through,” Gavaskar said.
Even when England were 7 down and 8 down, wicket-keeper Ben Foakes didn’t attempt to step on the gas. He was more than content to trust his defence and play out time, which was always going to be a bad idea while batting with the tail.
England dug their own graves with their lack of proactiveness against the Indian spinners, and this is something they’ll need to correct in the second innings of this game as well as the 4th Test. If they don’t, they’ll be sitting ducks once again.