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3 major positives for Team India from the 2nd Test triumph

Team India. Pic: ICC
Team India. Pic: ICC
ANALYST
Modified 16 Feb 2021
Top 5 / Top 10
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After a 227-run hammering against England in the first Test in Chennai, Team India came up with the perfect riposte in the second Test at the same venue, winning by a whopping 317 runs.

Of course, the pitches used for the two Tests couldn't have been in more contrast. While the one in the first Test was a virtual batting beauty, at least for the first three days, the one in the second turned from Day 1, making batting a challenging proposition.

In the first Test, England won the toss and batted big in their first innings, which mattered in the eventual scheme of things, as Team India fell to a chastening defeat.

However, in the second, the rub of the green went the way of the hosts, as Team India won the toss. But considering way the game progressed, the toss was largely a non-factor. Visiting captain Joe Root admitted that the Indians played better on a tricky surface, and deservingly won the match.

Spinners from both sides had a great outing. Ravichandran Ashwin and debutant Axar Patel had five-wicket hauls in either innings for Team India, while for England, Moeen Ali and Jack Leach claimed eight and six wickets in the game respectively.

Team India batsmen, though, displayed greater application on a tough surface, which eventually made the difference in the outcome of the Test.

Big gains for Team India in Chennai win

There were impressive plusses for Team India from their series-levelling victory in the second Test. Here’s a look at three of them.

#3 Rohit Sharma returns to his big run-scoring ways

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Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma

Although he did not get a huge score in Australia, Rohit Sharma looked fluent in the two Tests Down Under. But after twin failures in the first Test that coincided with Team India's heavy defeat, the swords were out against Rohit Sharma, the Test player again.

However, Rohit Shama responded in a befitting manner by scoring big runs on a difficult surface. Sharma's 161 helped Team India recover from a disastrous start after winning the toss, losing Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli cheaply.

The Indian captain’s dismissal, beaten through the gate, could have potentially dented Team India’s psyche.

Rohit Sharma, however, decided that attack was the best form of defence, and played a highly impactful knock that caught the opponents off-guard. Even as critics were debating the merits of the Chennai strip, the Indian opener put together a fine exhibition of stroke-play on a pitch where the ball was turning square from Day 1.

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The right-hander is yet to prove himself as a Test batsman abroad, as opener or otherwise. However, his Test record at home just keeps getting better - 1530 runs in 16 Tests at an average of 80.52 with seven hundreds.

As an opener in India, Rohit Sharma has compiled 761 runs in seven Tests, averaging 76.1.


#2 Ravichandran Ashwin provides a timely reminder of his batting prowess

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin

Veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was brilliant with the ball at his home ground. Irrespective of the purchase a surface offers, bowlers still have to pick up wickets to win games for their team.

Ashwin did exactly that for Team India; his 5 for 43 in the first innings gave the hosts a massive lead which, in hindsight, proved decisive. The off-spinner chipped in with three wickets in the second innings as well, even as Axar Patel capped a memorable debut with a five-wicket haul.

Moreover, Ashwin scored a second-innings ton, which was a massive statement of intent that runs could be scored on the surface. The fact that the century was scored on a raging turner made the knock even more special.

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Ashwin’s hundred was his first in Tests since August 2016. There was a time, until a few years ago, when Ashwin was viewed as a defiant batsman. However, he seemed to have lost his confidence in recent times, especially with fast bowlers, in particular, peppering him with short stuff.

However, the blockathon in Sydney brought Ashwin's confidence back to some extent. That was followed by a hundred in Chennai, which provided a timely reminder of his batting abilities.

From his debut in November 2011 to August 2016, Ashwin scored 1439 runs in 35 Tests at an average of 34.26, with four hundreds and six fifties.

From September 2016 till the present though, the off-spinner’s batting average slipped to 23.27. Team India will hope that the Chennai hundred marks the second coming of Ashwin the batsman.


#1 Rishabh Pant is a man reborn behind the stumps

Rishabh Pant. Pic: BCCI
Rishabh Pant. Pic: BCCI
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After returning from Australia to a hero's welcome, thanks to his batting exploits, Rishabh Pant was the automatic choice as Team India's wicketkeeper-batsman in the Test series against England.

Even though Team India lost the first Test, Pant continued to impress as a batsman. His 91 off 88 in the first innings of that Test led England's left-arm spinner Jack Leach to believe as if the batsman was playing in the IPL. But Pant underwhelmed with his performance behind the stumps

Chances went down, takes were far from clean. The bowlers were clearly exasperated, as the ball either slipped out of Pant's hands or went past him on several occasions.

Cut to the second Test though, there was remarkable improvement in Pant’s wicketkeeping. Even as the ball was turning and bouncing viciously off the surface, the 23-year-old displayed excellent technique to collect the ball cleanly.

His keeping range was on display across the two innings. He dived full-length to pluck a catch of Ollie Pope in the first innings, helping Mohammed Siraj bag a wicket with his first ball at home. There was another one-handed, acrobatic take to dismiss Leach off Ishant Sharma’s bowling.

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In England’s second innings, Pant combined brilliantly with Ashwin to strangle Dan Lawrence down the leg side. With Lawrence out of his crease, Pant displayed wonderful agility to collect the ball and take off the bails before the batsman could return to the crease.

It was fitting that the curtains came down on the Test with another swift Pant stumping, this time off Kuldeep Yadav’s bowling, which ended Moeen Ali’s blitzkrieg of 43 from 18 balls, and with it the game.

So good was Rishabh Pant behind the stumps, his first-innings half-century, which came under pressure, was put in the shade. The youngster’s super show behind the wickets was clearly the result of the hard yards put in practice by Rishabh Pant and Team India's coaching staff.

Published 16 Feb 2021, 23:59 IST
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