A dubious Test record which will haunt India for years to come

Sports |  IANS  | Published : Wed, Jul 06, 2022, 12:35 PM

London, July 6 (IANS) England smashed quite a few records on way to their historic victory against India in the rescheduled fifth Test at Edgbaston, while for the visitors, among the most dubious records they made was losing after scoring 416 in the first innings.

India lost the Test at Edgbaston by seven wickets, with the hosts riding on fantastic unbeaten centuries from former skipper Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, smashing the required 378 runs for the loss of just three wickets.

The 416 is the second-highest first innings total in India's Test history that resulted in a loss -- the highest being 424 against Australia in Bangalore in 1998.

India were in a command at the end of England's first innings with a lead of 132 runs and it was difficult to imagine they would lose from that position as they had never before lost a Test after gaining a 100-plus runs lead when batting first. Of the previous 94 Tests when they had 100-plus lead, India had won 58, drawn 36 and lost none, according to ICC.

While India had an inauspicious start on the opening day when they were reduced to 98/5, the tourists managed to put on 338 runs -- their highest ever tally on the opening day of a Test match in England -- at stumps, with Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja's 222-run partnership for the sixth wicket key to their fight-back.

India recovered well to finish at 416 in the first innings thanks to centuries by Pant (146) and Jadeja (104). Pant's ton came off just 89 balls, the fastest by an India wicketkeeper in Test cricket to surpass Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 93-ball century against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 2006.

However, little did India realise that England had the wherewithal to come back after being 132 runs in deficit from the first innings. It was a remarkable turnaround that saw England break several Test match records of their own.

England scaling 378 at Edgbaston to draw the five-match series 2-2 is the highest successful chase in their Test history, beating 359 against Australia in Leeds in the 2019 Ashes. No team before had chased a target in excess of 350 against India in Tests, the previous highest being 339 by Australia at the WACA in Perth in 1977, according to ICC.

It is also the eighth-highest chase in Test cricket and the second-highest on English soil, after Sir Don Bradman led Australia's 404 against England in Leeds in the 1948 Ashes.

England are the first team in the history of Test cricket to successfully chase 250-plus targets in four consecutive attempts -- three against New Zealand in the recent 3-0 whitewash of the Black Caps and the rescheduled Test versus India.

Before chasing 378 against India, England chased down 296 at Headingley, 299 at Trent Bridge and 277 at Lord's against the Kiwis. The next best 250-plus chase streak is three games, by Australia on two different occasions -- against South Africa twice and Bangladesh in 2006, and against England, South Africa and West Indies between 1948 and 1951.

England's current streak also means that four of their top 14 successful chases in their 145 years' Test history have come in the last 30 days. In these four chases, they have notched up 1,252 runs for the loss of 16 fourth-innings wickets, averaging 78.25 runs per wicket in what is usually the most difficult innings to bat in when playing in Tests.

While there are several factors behind England's dream run, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are the players most responsible for the home team's resurgence after a string of defeats spanning two years.

The duo scored unbeaten centuries -- Root (142) and Bairstow (114) -- in the historic Edgbaston run chase. Bairstow also scored 136 in the chase against New Zealand in Nottingham last month and before him Root knocked 115 not out against New Zealand at Lord's in the same series. It is the first time in Test cricket that a team has produced four centuries in fourth innings in a calendar year.

Root and Bairstow shared an unbeaten stand of 269 against India which is England's highest partnership in a successful chase in Test cricket, according to ICC.

All England batters combined have piled up 1,546 runs in fourth innings in Tests in 2022, the highest sum in chases by a team in a calendar year. The previous record was 1,462 runs by Pakistan batters in 2010.

With two more three-Test series this year -- against South Africa and Pakistan -- England batters might finish 2022 with over 2,000 runs in chases.

Root (1,744 runs) and Bairstow (1,218) are also the top-two run-getters in the current cycle of the ICC World Test Championship. Bairstow's last five innings have helped him amass 589 runs which equates to 10.88 per cent of his all Test runs (5,415) in a career spanning over 10 years and 87 Tests. He has scored six centuries in eight Tests this year -- the same number of centuries he had in the previous 79 Tests of his career.

Bairstow is only the fourth England batter to have six centuries in a year, after Root in 2021, Michael Vaughan in 2002 and Denis Compton in 1947. The 32-year-old scored tons in both innings at Edgbaston, becoming the first England batter since Andrew Strauss against India in Chennai in 2008 to hit twin centuries in a Test.

With 994 runs at an average of 76.46, Bairstow is also the highest run-scorer in Test cricket in 2022 and has hit second most sixes (18) after captain Ben Stokes (19).

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