England losing the Mumbai test by an innings last week has a facet, other than India’s bowling and batting domination. It was only the third time in test history that a team had lost by an innings after scoring 400 or more runs. Incidentally, England featured in all three test matches and suffered the same fate twice. Once, however, they handed a similar humiliation to Sri Lanka in the first test at Cardiff during May 26-30, 2011 after 400 by Sri Lanka in their first innings. The only other instance of such a thing happening was in the fifth Ashes test at the Oval in August 1930, when England batted first and scored 405 but still lost by an innings. Those were the days of such greats as Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Maharaja Duleepsinhji and of course, the greatest of them all, Sir Don Bradman. Ironically, England is now credited with a dubious distinction of two such losses but they are also the only country to feature both as winners and losers. Though a million pages have filled print media since England’s loss at Mumbai, the central focus of such reports were; Ravichandran Ashwin’s 12 wickets; Virat Kohli’s double century and centuries by Murali Vijay and Jayant Yadav.
When England scored 400 runs in the first innings of 4th test match against India on December 9 at Mumbai, they must have felt safe. The Wankhede pitch had begun to turn and all 10 wickets were shared between R Ashwin and R Jadeja with the former accounting for 6 of them. England themselves had the spin strength of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Joe Root. Moeen had already proved the vicious quality of his right-arm off-breaks, while Rashid and Root could produce leg-breaks of a reasonably high quality. England felt even safer, when Moeen claimed Lokesh Rahul in 14th over by tossing a ball that spun and sneaked through the gap between Rahul’s bat and pad even as the batsman shaped for a drive. After that however, Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli dominated the bowling and India looked poised for a big score. England made a brief comeback by quickly dismissing Murali Vijay, Karun Nair, Parthiv Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. They still had a 36-run lead and Kohli was the only recognized Indian batsman on the crease. At that point the test seemed evenly balanced. However, fortunes decisively swung India’s way as Kohli went on to score 235 and Jayant Yadav notched up his maiden test century. Their 241-run stand broke England’s back. After India finished at 631 all out, they bowled out England for 195 on last day. Ashwin had another 6-wicket haul out of 9 that fell to spinners in the second innings. England’s woes reflected in their loss by an innings and 36 runs.
Five years ago, England did the same against the visiting Sri Lanka team in Cardiff’s first test during May 26-30, 2011. Winning the toss, Sri Lankans scored exactly 400 in the first innings. In a replica of what happened at Wankhede, one England batsman scored a double century and two came up with centuries. The current captain Alastair Cook had scored a patient 133 to build a solid foundation before Jonathan Trott made 203 and Ian Bell, an unbeaten 103. England lost only 5 wickets and declared at 496/5. It was a bold decision by skipper Andrew Staruss, since the first innings lead was under 100 runs. But Strauss chose to declare because the Cardiff weather was playing truant and full-day’s play had become a dream. Helped by a fantastic spell of bowling by Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann, none of whom had to deliver more than 10 overs, England bowled out Sri Lanka for a paltry 82 and won the test by an innings and 14 runs.
England were also involved in test cricket’s first ever instance of a team losing by an innings after scoring over 400 runs. They had batted first and scored 405 in the first test during the fifth Ashes test against Australia at the Oval during August 16-22, 1930. Three good knocks featured in their innings with Jack Hobbs scoring 47, Herbert Sutcliffe 161 and KS Duleepsinhji 50. Australia began by scoring 159 for the first wicket. While Bill Ponsford scored 110, the visitors were immensely helped by 232 scored by the legendary Sir Don Bradman. There were several fifties from Australian batsmen as they reached 695 on fourth day of the six-day test. When England came on to bat for the second time, they needed 296 to avoid an innings defeat. However, Percy Hornibrook wreaked havoc on England batsmen to take 7 wickets and England lost by an innings and 39 runs after being bundled out for 251.
The Wankhede test was in the same league as the one England lost at Oval against Australia. It is an unusual occurrence in test cricket because 400-plus runs by any team, is considered a reasonably good score. Test history is replete with examples of teams scoring 400-plus first-innings runs and ending up as winners. However, at Mumbai last week, Ashwin and Kohli were the cheerleaders for India in creating history and let us not forget the 204-ball 104 by Jayant Yadav, who is in the team primarily as a bowler. After he made his debut at Visakhapatnam, Jayant has shown his prowess as a batsman. His invaluable 141-ball 55 in India’s victory in Mohali is still fresh in the minds and at Mumbai; Jayant played his career’s only the third test match.