James Anderson turns on the brilliance as England chase win in Chennai
James Anderson sent stumps cartwheeling with a majestic display of reverse-swing bowling as England circled a brilliant fifth day victory in the first Test against India.
Needing nine wickets to convert a dominant performance in Chennai into a win, England claimed five before lunch to make themselves heavy favourites to finish the job in style. Virat Kohli led his side in to the break on 144 for six, still 276 behind, knowing only a rearguard for the ages would get the hosts out of jail.
Spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess took one each but it was the redoubtable Anderson who was chiefly responsible for wrecking Indian hopes, turning in a quite magnificent spell of pace bowling worth three for six that was simply too good for Shubman Gill, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant.
The most prolific seamer in the history of the game had to wait 14 overs to get his chance, with Jofra Archer getting first use of the hard ball while both slow bowlers were given an early chance to exploit the turning pitch.
Leach was up first and landed an early blow for his team, prising out India’s most reliable blocker, Cheteshwar Pujara, in his fourth over. Pujara has plenty of previous for long, disciplined innings, but could only edge to slip off the shoulder of the bat when Leach dragged one back across from a leg-stump line.
India recovered well from that setback, with Gill moving to 50 as Bess’ initial spell wavered. That brought Anderson to the table and he proceeded to serve up one of the most remarkable overs imaginable.
At 38 he might be expected to ease himself into a new spell but, having sensed the ball was ready to reverse, he engaged in outright destruction. Disguising his action carefully, he tailed the next one in sharply, toppling the off stump as Gill left a tell-tale gap between bat and pad.
Undeterred, he went back to the top of his mark and uprooted Rahane’s off stump at the very next attempt. It was magnificent mayhem of the kind a swing bowler is simply not supposed to create in this part of the world.
Pant, who crashed his way to 91 in the first innings, was next and it is testament to Anderson that the swashbuckling number six fell in a tentative manner. Unbalanced and feeling for contact, he chipped to Root at short cover as the Lancastrian made it three for six.
Bess was largely poor, with a selection of full tosses routinely despatched by Kohli, but when he landed one nicely against Washington Sundar it was good enough to snare the edge for duck.
Archer returned to bully Ravichandran Ashwin, who was hit three times on the gloves or helmet but showed plenty of guts to stick around.
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