A disaster. A shambles. An embarrassment. Several words have been used to describe England’s fifth day display against India, but how about inevitable? It may not have seemed that way after Rishabh Pant and Ishant Sharma were dismissed early on, leaving India with just two wickets in hand and sitting on an 182 run lead, but as it panned out, England and their fans were deceived.
When they needed to show ruthlessness, England’s bowling was tame. The tailenders, featuring by no exaggeration one of the worst batsmen in the world in Jasprit Bumrah, made them look silly. Bumrah had averaged just two runs heading into this match, facing on average eight balls. This should have been short and sweet by England’s executioners, but instead, ball after ball went array. Bumrah scored 36, Shami 56 and by the time they had declared on 298, Joe Root’s side had completely crumbled mentally.
The captain, and England’s most talented batsman, made a series of bad decisions as his side fell apart around him. He even left the field as his bowlers struggled to get out the tailenders at one point, as he and the coaching staff attempted to understand what was unfolding before their eyes.
"Tactically I got a few things wrong, and a lot falls on my shoulders," Root told BBC Test Match Special after the match. "The game could have looked very different if I had managed things slightly different, and I will learn from that experience."
Although Root has been rightly criticised for the defeat, and subsequently taken full responsibility, it feels like all the blame has been placed upon his shoulders. He is still England’s finest Test cricketer, by some way, and now he is being vilified for his role in this defeat. Sure his field placement left England exposed, but Chris Silverwood in particular is also responsible for the tactics of this side.
The England coach has repeatedly failed on the big occasions since taking charge in 2019 and now in the biggest games England are choking once more. He, and this side which includes experienced leaders such as James Anderson, have to do better when they get themselves in a position to win a Test match, as they had performed admirably for three days this week. But it seems the lack of first-class cricket in this country this summer has cost Root’s side when it comes to the key moments.
With all the focus on The Hundred domestically, this England side were left ill-prepared to take on a strong India side that warmed up with a clash against New Zealand in June. It takes more than a handful of overs for both batsman and bowlers to adjust to the demands of five-day Test cricket, and when the heat was turned up on the final day, England wilted.
Despite the bowling debacle, Root and his side should have been able to get close to the 272 runs needed, or at the very least bat out the day for a draw. But this is where Root has also been let down, as the only constant performer of an inconsistent batting line-up. Two wickets came for just one run, as England’s top order crumbled to 67-5 meaning that they have been bowled out for 205 or less in 10 of their previous 15 completed Test innings and are without a win in seven matches.
When the bowlers are missing the mark, the batsmen, Root aside, appear to crumble under any form of sustained pressure. The captain of England’s ship is making mistakes, but he has also been left rudderless by players around him who have not proven themselves to be good enough to play for their country. This loss falls upon the shoulders of the entire team, and every single one of the coaching staff, not just Root.
England have three Tests to put things right, starting at Headingley on the 25th.