Nasser Hussain reflects on England’s crushing win over India in the first Test in Chennai and why captain Joe Root won’t let his side get too excited, while he also looks at an excellent comeback from Jack Leach and has his say on the tourists’ rotation policy…
People were writing England off, saying this series could be 4-0 to India. No one really gave this side much of a chance.
India had been on top of their game. Had won in Australia, Virat Kohli was back and India is a very difficult place to go and win in Test match cricket.
So, this win for England has to be right up there, especially away from home. They put in the perfect performance. From ball one to the final delivery, it was outstanding. They now need to carry it on.
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If you asked Joe Root or Chris Silverwood right now whether they are the best side in the world they would say no. But they have been the best side they can be.
They have done it three games in a row now after the two wins in Sri Lanka. Six away from home in a row, if you go back to South Africa last winter.
They are starting to answer the right questions about how to improve away from home but Root and Silverwood won’t get giddy, they will just keep trying to improve all the time.
Captain Root at top of his game
Root was brilliant in Chennai. He led by example.
The best thing he did was win the toss, which was vital, but after that the way he batted in his 218, the way he managed his bowlers, the way he mixed up seam and spin to get it right was outstanding.
Critics will have their say on the decision not to declare but there is always a 45-minute gap between what pundits, spectators, people off the field think the captain should be doing and what actually happens.
If you are not going to enforce the follow on, then you want to rest your bowlers. Root wanted to make sure they were fresh to go again.
In the heat and humidity of Chennai, after four days on the bounce, he wanted Jack Leach, Jofra Archer, Jimmy Anderson and Dom Bess to put their feet up for a few hours and then have the energy to go with the new ball on the evening of day four and a relatively new ball on day five.
Root admitted that maybe they plodded along for half an hour too long with the bat but, as Rob Key said on Monday, you are judged by the result and you can’t take anything away from that result.
Root sure is one of England’s greats. He will probably end up breaking all records, he will probably go past Sir Alastair Cook’s 161 Test matches and probably tally of runs as well.
He is in great nick, only 30 years old, and if you did a list of all-time England batting greats – the ones I have seen anyway – you’d have to have Root with Cook, Graham Gooch and Kevin Pietersen.
I would say he is arguably England’s best-ever player of spin, the way he sweeps spin away is outstanding to watch. All that is combined with Joe Root the person. He is such a great ambassador for our sport and at the very top of his game as a player and a captain.
Leach has abundance of character
Jack Leach ended up with four wickets in India’s second innings and I wasn’t surprised at all to see him come back after Rishabh Pant went after him in the first innings.
I was lucky enough – and Jack was unlucky enough – to sit on a flight with him between Cape Town and Johannesburg about a year ago and I got to know him.
He told me everything he has been through off the field. He suffers from Crohn’s disease and has had to really watch his diet, has had real battles.
Anyone who knows Jack knows he has an abundance of character. We saw that in the one run he got in the famous Ben Stokes Ashes partnership at Headingley.
He said he felt like he was in an IPL game with Pant running at him every time during that onslaught of sixes but the way he fought back was amazing.
Rotation policy should be applauded
Thoughts now turn to the second Test and England are going to go down the rotation policy, they have made that crystal clear. The ECB should be applauded for that.
People like me and the spectators want to see the best team play time after time, want to see James Anderson go again and win again after his brilliant performance in the first Test.
They want to see Jos Buttler, who will now fly home, play again as his improvement over the last year as a batsman and a wicketkeeper has been brilliant. I’d certainly like to see Buttler stay.
But you do have to look after the mental wellbeing of all our cricketers as well as the physical. These guys have been in a bubble and need a bit of rest here and there.
Anderson is 38 so Stuart Broad could come in for him as it is going to be a very similar pitch to the first Test and England might want to keep Anderson fresh for the third Test match.
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That is a day-night game in Ahmedabad and Anderson under lights could be a real handful. Broad is a pretty good replacement, I have to say!
If England rotate and lose, people will say ‘where is Buttler? Why did you rotate Anderson?’ But, at the moment, everything the management, the selectors, Silverwood are doing is absolutely spot on. It would be very difficult to argue against the policy.
England are going to have to expect India to come back at them.
India lost the first Test in Australia, when they were bowled out for 36, but came back and won the series, while England might also lose the toss in the second Test and it will be harder.
But they have done everything they can do so far.
Follow over-by-over text commentary from day one of the second Test between India and England in Chennai on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app from 3.25am on Saturday.
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