England wrapped up a dominant First Test win over India on Tuesday, with Jimmy Anderson collecting three vital wickets to help complete a comprehensive 227-run win. And while they will rightly be wary of tougher encounters to come, Joe Root and his side have every reason to believe they could record a historic series victory after a magnificent first five days.
India were bowled out for 192 in their second innings in Chennai in an encounter that will be remembered most for Root’s stunning first innings knock of 218 in his 100th Test match, but that shouldn’t obscure what was a fantastic team performance.
Anderson’s three-wicket burst on the final day accounted for India’s middle order, with Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane, who narrowly survived an lbw appeal, both bowled out in the space of four balls and the dangerous Rishabh Pant being pouched by Root soon afterwards. From 92-2, India were suddenly 110-5 and staring the inevitable in the face.
It was the latest reminder of Anderson’s unique majesty with the ball. The 38-year-old now has 611 Test wickets to his name and shows no signs of relenting. While he has been rotated with Stuart Broad over the last six months as Covid-19 bubbles become an uncomfortable way of cricketing life, he will continue to back himself to collect wickets with regularity for as long as he is playing like this.
Elsewhere, there were important 80+ scores from Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes to assist Root in that mammoth 578 which set the tone for the match, while Jack Leach responded to a bit of a battering at the hands of Pant in particular in the first innings to take 4-76 in the second in a great show of resilience. Just as in Galle during the 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka in January, Dom Bess pulled his weight too, with match figures of 5-126 as England’s secondary spinner.
One Test match alone will not define England’s winter, and India remain 11/8 favourites with Betfred to clinch the series with England 13/8, but this win is the clearest sign yet that they are starting to put something together. They have a talented pool of players both within and beyond this XI, with Broad, Moeen Ali, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Olly Stone and Chris Woakes all on standby for potential call-ups for the Second Test, while the likes of Mark Wood, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran are all back at home after playing their part in the Sri Lanka tour.
The very fact that Virat Kohli’s involvement was little more than a footnote says a lot for how England dominated this match too, and while a key contribution from the India captain never feels too far away the tourists will take heart from the way they were able to keep him in check here.
“It was a crucial toss and we posted a very good score,” said Root at the post-match presentation. “To get 20 wickets in alien conditions, that’s huge credit to the bowlers. The first partnership was crucial to get us going and from there it was about contributions. That’s the way we have to win out here, bat for long periods of time in the first innings.
“We are a proud team and it’s important to keep finding ways to get better. The way Jimmy Anderson goes about things, constantly challenging himself at 38 to still get better, he’s a great role model to the rest of the group. He is the GOAT of English cricket, constantly challenging himself and finding ways to get better all the time, and his skill level is as good as anyone you’ll ever see.”
With Root and Anderson firing, England could yet make this one of their most memorable winters in years. A real statement has been made in Chennai.