England stunned by India record-breakers

England conceded their highest-ever Test score to any opposition as triple-centurion Karun Nair piled on the agony for Alastair Cook's tourists in India's own national-record 759 for seven declared.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19th December 2016, 12:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:13 pm
England's captain Alastair Cook, right, shakes hand with India's Karun Nair after he reached his 300.
England's captain Alastair Cook, right, shakes hand with India's Karun Nair after he reached his 300.

Nair (303 not out) became only the third batsman ever to turn a maiden Test century into a triple, following the great Garfield Sobers and Bobby Simpson, as England’s previous-worst 751 for five - inflicted by West Indies in Antigua in 2004 - was consigned to history.

Nair, in only his third Test after previous scores of four and 13, shared a sixth-wicket stand of 181 with Ravi Ashwin (67) on day four of this fifth and final match of the series to rack up a mammoth lead of 282 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

Virat Kohli declared immediately after Nair cut Adil Rashid for his 32nd four, to add to four sixes, and reach his triple-hundred from 381 balls in almost nine and a half hours.

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That put the onus on England’s batsmen to summon a resilience often previously lacking on this tough tour if they are to avoid going home 4-0 losers, by closing out a stalemate on the final day.

In five overs of batting on the penultimate evening of what has been an especially taxing trip, Cook and Keaton Jennings at least avoided mishap on the way to 12 without loss.

Nair had earlier increased his country’s top individual score against England for the second time in successive weeks, after Kohli hit 235 in the series-sealing win in Mumbai, and went on to become only his country’s second triple-centurion after Virender Sehwag - who achieved the feat twice.

Nair put on 161 with his lifelong friend and team-mate KL Rahul here on Sunday, before the latter fell agonisingly one run short of his 200.

He had a little fortune, dropped at slip on 34 by Cook on the third afternoon and then surviving again on 154 when he got an edge on a reverse-sweep at Rashid but was given not out caught behind and benefited from England’s lack of remaining reviews.

England had little obvious motivation to accelerate proceedings in the morning session after India resumed on 391 for four, so a first hour containing just 12 overs and 34 runs was an acceptable overture.

They would have had a wicket too, if only Stuart Broad had a review left at his disposal when Murali Vijay was given not out caught behind on 21 as, according to technology, he had made contact with a thin edge.

Instead it was to be Liam Dawson who struck with his maiden Test wicket, Murali trapped lbw on the back foot when he failed to spot the arm ball.

The fifth-wicket stand was broken at 63, and England reined the innings run-rate temporarily below 3.5.

Ashwin appeared in no hurry in front of his home-town crowd, taking 15 balls before he got off the mark with a single off Dawson.

He had only nine from 36 balls at lunch but helped to up the tempo on the way to his 50 from another 80 deliveries - while for England nothing seemed to go right, as Nair and then Ashwin each survived tight lbw calls in occasional medium-pacer Jennings’ first Test spell.

England took the third new ball at 600 for five - cue for India to become even more expansive, only for Ashwin to fall at last to Jos Buttler’s outstanding one-handed catch diving to his left at gully off Broad.

It was already just the second time in England’s history they had conceded 600 in consecutive Tests, and there was another let-off in the offing for Nair too - dropped on 217 at slip by Joe Root, diving to his right off Jake Ball.

Jonny Bairstow’s missed stumping off Moeen Ali merely added insult to injury as Nair escaped again on 246, and the resulting byes brought up the 200 lead in yet another three-figure stand - with Ravindra Jadeja (51), who joined in with a near run-a-ball half-century.

For England, it was then soon simply a case of how much mental energy they could possibly have left to defy India on a pitch which has strongly favoured the batsmen throughout so far.