Joe Root has urged England to learn their lessons quickly following a chastening defeat in the second Test against India in Chennai. England collapsed to 164 all out in their second innings shortly after lunch on day four, as India wrapped up a crushing 317-run victory, their largest win by runs in Tests between the two sides.
The deficit would have been greater still but for a brief flurry of 43 from 18 balls from Moeen Ali at No. 9, whom Root confirmed will play no further part in the series after choosing to fly home for the final two Tests. But having made only 134 in their first innings, England amassed fewer runs in the match (298) than India’s two highest scorers, Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin, who made 306 runs between them, including a century apiece.
“We were outplayed in all three departments this week,” Root told the official broadcaster after the game. “It’s a bit of an education. We’ve got to learn from this because sometimes these are the conditions that you come up against.
“We’ve got to find a way of scoring runs in these conditions, finding ways of building pressure for long periods of time with the ball, and in bowling six balls at one batter. Credit to India, they made that very difficult for us.”
“There’s a few guys that haven’t played a lot in this part of the world. So we got to learn quickly and I think that’s one thing that we’ve done quite well in the recent time, so hopefully we can take that into the rest of this series”
After losing an important toss, England were pushed on to the defensive from the outset thanks to a masterful initiative-seizing innings from Sharma, whose first-day 161 included 80 runs in the first session alone. By the time England’s turn came to bat on the second day, India’s total of 329 already looked daunting.
“On day one, we could have probably been a little bit tighter and squeezed the game a little bit more, restricted them and made it a little bit harder for them to score as freely as they did,” Root admitted. “And then, with the bat, it was obviously quite a challenging wicket from day two onwards, but we’re going to have to be quite smart about how we’re going to score runs out here, how we’re going to build an innings, and we’ve got to learn from the opposition who played very well in these conditions.”
The result was quite the comedown after England’s 227-run victory – their match aggregate of 298 was their lowest since the Edgbaston Test against West Indies in 1995, and their second-lowest in Asia behind the Mumbai Test in 1981-82.
Asked his opinion of a Chennai surface that has been the focus of intense scrutiny throughout the match, Root acknowledged that the pitch had been “challenging”, but stopped short of outright criticism.
“It’s very alien to what a lot of English guys will have experienced before, as are green seamers that you might across in the UK. Do I think it was a good pitch? I wouldn’t say it was a good pitch, but it made for very exciting cricket.
“I do think that the toss was an important one to win but it wouldn’t have guaranteed us to win the game either,” he added. “India showed that you can score runs on it and found a way of managing a very tricky surface so we’ve got to learn from that.
“There are not many times that guys will have batted on a wicket that has bounced and spun and misbehaved as much as that. One thing I take from how [India] played is how calm they stayed, how unflustered they were when deliveries did really misbehave.
“How they didn’t get away from their game plan, how they knew exactly the way they were going to score their runs. How they managed to bat at the other end for long periods of time.
“And as a batting group, how does that look for us individually? How I am going to manage these big turning deliveries and how am I going to stay really calm and clear under pressure? We’ve got to take bits from it and add it to our own games, and come back better for it as well.”
However, Root insisted that England were still very much in contention with two Tests to play, including the unknown quantity of the day-night Test at Ahmedabad next week, which will be played with a pink SG ball – a match for which James Anderson and Jofra Archer are expected to return to lead the seam attack, after Anderson was rested and Archer missed out with an elbow complaint.
“He has been back into training the last couple of days,” Root said of Archer. “His workload will build up ahead of the game. Hopefully he will be available for selection all being well for this pink-ball Test.
“We are one-all in the series, with two very important games to come and we’re very excited about that because of how well we played in the first game,” Root added. “We’re very much in the series. [The day-night Test] will be very different. We’ve only played two pink-ball games, one in Australia with a Kookaburra, one in England with the Dukes, so it’ll be different again, I’m sure, but it’s an exciting opportunity to play at what looks like a fantastic venue.
“Day-night cricket offers something different again, so we are very much looking forward to that. We’ll have a little bit of a break now to refresh and have a look at a few things, but it’s exciting times.
“It’s just very important that we stay level as a team,” he added. “We’ve got to stay very level, and understand that we’ve played a lot of very good cricket in the recent past. We don’t get too far above our station when we win and we don’t see it as doom and gloom when we have tough weeks like we have this time round.
“We performed well last week, but we got to learn the lessons. There’s a few guys that haven’t played a lot in this part of the world. So we got to learn quickly and I think that’s one thing that we’ve done quite well in the recent time, so hopefully we can take that into the rest of this series.”