Rampant Pant, Lonely Root: Talking Points From India vs England Series

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India crushed Joe Root’s side inside three days in the fourth Test in Ahmedabad on Saturday to clinch the series 3-1 and finish top of the Test Championship table ahead of New Zealand. India had led the standings until November, when a change in the points system because of disruption brought by the coronavirus pandemic promoted Australia to top spot. The new system, based on percentage of points instead of total points, left India with the daunting task of needing to win Test series away in Australia and at home against England to make the final. 

AFP Sport looks at five talking points from the high-profile contest:

Too much for Root

He batted, bowled and led by example, but England captain Joe Root was often left fighting a lone battle against an inspired Indian side on home turf.

Root scored 218 in his 100th Test as England won the opening game convincingly. But the remaining matches were a struggle for the touring side. 

Off-spinner Root even turned up with the ball to claim his maiden five-wicket haul in the day-night third Test but England went down inside two days. He topped the series batting chart with 368 runs but said: “I can get better”.

Trial by spin

The pitch debate dominated the series after England’s batting collapse in the second Test in Chennai. 

But it was the day-night game that prompted former England cricketers Michael Vaughan and David Lloyd to term the Ahmedabad track as “poor” as Indian spinners wreaked havoc to skittle out England for 112 and 81. 

England’s players refused to blame the pitch and maintained they were outplayed by a better opposition, while India’s veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who led the attack with 32 wickets, noted that no one blames the pitch when seamers take all the wickets on green pitches overseas. 

Breathless Pant leads new heroes

Rishabh Pant left everyone gasping in awe when he reverse flicked veteran fast bowler James Anderson for a six over the slips on his way to a match-winning 101 in the final Test, a shot dubbed “brave” by Root. 

The wicketkeeper-batsman emerged as one of India’s new Test heroes along with all-rounder Washington Sundar, who scored 96 in the same innings, and left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who took four hauls of five or more wickets in his debut series.

“Absolutely enjoyed the way each player contributed in every department throughout the series, especially Pant, Sundar, Patel, Ashwin and Rohit Sharma,” said batting great Sachin Tendulkar of India’s rich depth of talent.

Rohit steps up as Kohli falters

Rohit Sharma welcomed the crowds back to Indian cricket grounds with a fluent 161 in the second Test to lead his team’s comeback win. 

The opener pulled and swept with elan as he hit 18 boundaries and two sixes and continued his good run in the low-scoring pink-ball game with 66 and 25 not out. 

Rohit Sharma, more known for his limited-overs exploits, stood tall in a series that remained ordinary for captain Virat Kohli, who fell twice without scoring. 

“Rohit’s knock was the most defining moment in us coming back,” said Kohli.

Moeen exits, bubble bursts

Moeen Ali’s exit from the England team bio-secure “bubble” after the second Test left many confused after Root said the all-rounder had opted to go home. 

Top players including Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow were given breaks as players were rotated in and out of the squad during the team’s six-Test sub-continent tour that included two Sri Lanka Tests. 

Coach Chris Silverwood later apologised for the messy way the departure was handled, saying it had been England’s decision. Moeen had contracted coronavirus on landing in Sri Lanka, and only played one Test. 

Promoted

It highlighted England’s controversial, pre-ordained rest plans during the pandemic, which were severely criticised back home, with Root never seeming to have his strongest eleven players at his disposal at the same time.

But Root defended the policy. “We can’t keep playing guys until they fall over,” he said, with England facing the prospect of playing up to 17 Tests under virus-restrictions during 2021.

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