During December 2015-January 2016, England credited themselves as a born-again test side when they toured South Africa. Of the 4 test matches, England won the first and the third, drew in the second and lost the fourth to emerge as series winners. All-rounder Moeen Ali was the wrecker-in-chief in Dublin’s first test and Ben Stokes scored 258 off 198 balls with 30 fours and 11 sixes in Cape Town’s drawn second test. England went back home in high spirits and when Sri Lanka toured England in 2016 summer, England won the series yet again. England’s next two test-series were against Pakistan at home and Bangladesh at Chittagong and Dhaka. England lost twice against Pakistan but still won the series 3-2. The 2-test series at Bangladesh ended as a 1-1 draw. From Dhaka, England arrived in India and played admirably in Rajkot’s first test but lost the next four to suffer a 0-4 series loss. But the worst happened, when they lost by an innings twice in quick succession after scoring 400 or more in the first innings.
England’s cup of woes spilled in Chennai’s fifth test on Tuesday after they suffered their worst ever test-match defeat despite scoring 477 in first innings. Ten days earlier, the visitors had lost Mumbai’s fourth test also by an innings. In a previous cricket post on these pages, the author wrote about England’s involvement in each of the previous three incidences, where a team had lost by an innings after scoring 400-plus runs. In 1930, they had lost to Australia at home after scoring 405 in first innings but handed a similar defeat to Sri Lanka in 2011 after the visitors scored 400 in the first innings. Then came the Mumbai test and England suffered their second innings defeat after piling up 400 runs in first innings. In the just concluded Chennai test, England certainly looked on driver’s seat on first two days. They had amassed 477 runs but didn’t know much about Karun Kaladharan Nair, who was playing his career’s third test after making the debut at Mohali. Nair arrived on the crease after Virat Kohli’s dismissal in the 61st over to join opener Lokesh Rahul, who had already completed his century. At India’s score of 211/3, England still had plenty of buffer for their bowlers. Earlier, they had accounted for Parthiv Patel, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. All they needed now was removing Rahul and Nair at the earliest.
That didn’t happen until much later as Rahul and Nair produced a 161 fourth-wicket stand before Rahul got out after scoring 199 and missing his maiden double century. All his happiness of scoring 199 was drowned in the sorrow of not scoring just one run. However, when Murali Vijay came to join Nair, India had reached 372/4. England were still in the game but they had no idea about their bowlers’ impending massacre.
Karun Nair had been quiet in the company with Vijay and his 70 runs took 135 balls. When play ended on third day, Nair was unbeaten on 71 and Vijay on 17. Next day, Vijay and Nair carried on and on to frustrate England’s bowlers. However, Vijay lost his wicket in the 124th over, when India score read 435/5. The next man R Ashwin had a quiet start and scored his first run after 15 balls. On the other side, Nair reached his maiden test century and looked hungry for more. The fifth-wicket partnership yielded 181 runs and after Ashwin left at 67, India had gone past 600. By now, Nair had completed his double century and he was playing with gay abandon. For company, he had Ravindra Jadeja. The two batsmen added 138 for the seventh wicket before Jadeja departed after scoring 51 off 55 balls. Kohli allowed Nair to complete his triple century and declared the innings at 759/7. This was also India’s highest innings score in tests after they surpassed their previous best of 726/9 against Sri Lanka in 2009. Karun Nair became only the second Indian to score a triple century after Virender Sehwag had done that on two occasions.
Karun Nair’s heroics in his 303 not out were well-supported by Vijay, Ashwin and Jadeja and proved to be a major factor in India obtaining a 282-run lead. When England came on to save the test on fourth day evening, they did well to conserve all their wickets and went into the final day at 12/0 scored in 5 overs. Openers Alistair Cook and Keaton Jennings forked out a 103-run partnership and it seemed England could save the match. But Jadeja had other ideas. He removed both Cook and Jennings and went to wreak havoc on England’s batsmen. Only Moeen Ali and Joe Root offered some resistance. England’s last 5 wickets fell for the addition of just 15 runs and they were all out at 207. Jadeja’s 25-over spell produced 7 wickets and he gave away just 48 runs in India’s victory by an innings and 75 runs. In the end, it was another massive defeat for England. From second time last week, it became the third, when they lost by an innings after scoring 477. It wasn’t a bad batting performance from them but India did much better to emerge as 4-0 series winners. Karun Nair was named player-of-the-match while Virat Kohli was honored as player-of-the-series.