Woeful England slump to heavy defeat
England had no answer to Ravindra Jadeja as their attempt to salvage a stalemate fell flat with an innings defeat in the fifth Test in Chennai.
Alastair Cook’s team failed to avoid a final embarrassment at the end of one of their most taxing tours, bowled out for 207 to lose by an innings and 75 runs with nine overs unused on the last evening.
Jadeja (seven for 48), rather than his great spin ally Ravi Ashwin, was the architect of England’s downfall this time - although there was an element of self-destruction too on a blameless pitch which had allowed India to pile up a record-breaking 759 for seven declared before the end of day four.
England were therefore 4-0 series losers, ending their epic year of 17 Tests with a record-equalling eight defeats.
Their unstoppable slide took hold after tea with a remarkable collapse of six wickets for 15 runs, following an early-afternoon wobble of the first four for 26.
Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes created an illusion of resolve in a stand of 63 only for the former’s reckless and flawed attempt to hit Jadeja over the top to end instead in the safe hands of Ashwin above his head at mid-on, and kickstart the procession.
Cook and Keaton Jennings (54) had calmed the tourists’ initial nerves by guiding them through a wicketless first session, before the introduction of Jadeja suddenly posed a major problem.
First the slow left-armer did for the England captain, for the sixth time in the series, and then accounted for Jennings and Joe Root too.
Jadeja could not stay out of the action, in fact, and for good measure took an outstanding catch running back from midwicket to collect Jonny Bairstow’s flick off Ishant Sharma.
Responsibility fell to Moeen and Stokes, and they made a good fist of it for the next 19 overs - until England’s tour unravelled terminally.
Cook, whose future as captain is the subject of significant and ever growing debate, had it in his own hands at the start of play to achieve a successful rearguard.
He had an early escape on four, in the third over of the morning as England resumed on 12 without loss still 270 runs in arrears, when he edged an Ashwin off-break behind on the front-foot defence only for Parthiv Patel to put down the routine chance.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra almost took a wicket in his first over, when Jennings advanced on 31 and middled the ball to short-leg - where KL Rahul very nearly hung on to an instinctive half-chance.
Instead, as both left-handed openers defended without alarm and swept effectively - in Jennings’ case reverse-swept too - England made it to lunch on 97 without loss.
Cook, however, could last until only the third over of the afternoon before Jadeja got him yet again - caught at leg-slip, one short of his 50 - to break the opening stand on 103.
Jennings completed his 117-ball half-century but soon went in anti-climax, up the pitch again and managing - as he tried to bail out into block-defence - to poke an unmissable catch straight back to Jadeja.
Root then mustered only six of the 11 runs he needed to break Michael Vaughan’s all-time English record of 1481 runs in a calendar year, missing a sweep at Jadeja to be lbw after India called a successful review.
Bairstow also fell short of Vaughan’s mark, by 11 runs - leaving much to do for Moeen and Stokes, as a noisy home crowd cheered every vaguest hint or slimmest chance of a wicket.
There was a lull until Moeen’s misjudgment, and within three more overs Stokes and Liam Dawson were also gone - for the addition of just four runs.
Stokes went to a back-foot jab into the hands of midwicket off Jadeja, and Dawson was bowled through the gate trying to drive Mishra’s googly.
Adil Rashid then fell to the very first delivery with the second new ball, trying to flick Umesh Yadav to leg but instead presenting a catch at cover - to who else, but Jadeja.
The last rites involved Stuart Broad giving himself out to Jadeja, caught at short-leg, and then number 11 Jake Ball last out caught in the gully three balls later to complete the slow left-armer’s career-best.
England were therefore left to reflect on adding - for the second week running - to the list of teams, previously amounting to two in cricket history, who have contrived to turn a total of 400 at their first attempt into an innings defeat.
For their captain, it would be time soon enough to consider whether this sorry performance might impact after all on his decision whether to extend his record four-year tenure.