Captain Kohli to the fore and other talking points from India's thumping win over Sri Lanka

Ashish Peter 27/11/2017
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Virat Kohli has been on a phenomenal run while captaining India.

India registered a thumping win in the second Test against Sri Lanka to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Ravichandran Ashwin notched up his 300th wicket as the islanders were bowled out for 166 runs in their second innings to hand India a massive victory by an innings and 239 runs.

Here, we look at the key talking points after a commanding performance by Virat Kohli’s men.

ASHWIN BECOMES QUICKEST TO 300 WICKETS

On the eve of the fourth day of the Nagpur Test, Ashwin required four wickets to become the quickest man to breach 300 Test wickets. Playing in his 54th Test, the Indian off-spinner was looking to better Dennis Lillee’s feat with the former Australian pacer having taken 56 Test to notch up the figures.

Ashwin had picked up three wickets in the day when the last Sri Lankan pair of Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage were at the crease. In the end, it all came together perfectly for the 31-year-old as he uprooted the stumps of Gamage with a wicked carom-ball to etch his name in the record books.

The off-spinner also completed 50 wickets in the calendar year for the third year in a row, making him the only bowler to do so along with Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.

SRI LANKA’S YEAR OF MISERY

While the results in limited-overs cricket have been abysmal for Sri Lanka in 2017, they have not fared much better with the red ball either. Despite becoming the first side to beat Pakistan in a Test series at the UAE in over 12 years, Dinesh Chandimal’s men have endured a torrid time in the calendar year.

The loss at Nagpur is the seventh of the year for the Sri Lankans, making it one of the worst years in Test history. They were on the receiving end of seven defeats in 2015 too. A defeat in the final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi would hence condemn the islanders to their worst year in the longest format of the game.

It has been a miserable year for Dinesh Chandimal and his men.

It has been a miserable year for Dinesh Chandimal and his men.

CAPTAIN KOHLI TO THE FORE

The Indian skipper has really flourished with the bat ever since taking up the captaincy reins. 2017 has been a really special year for Kohli with the double-hundred on Sunday his 10th century across all formats in the calendar year.

No other captain in history has managed as many tons in a calendar year as Kohli bettered the record of nine centuries set by Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith. The 29-year-old’s 213-run knock is his fifth double-ton as skipper which makes him the joint highest along with Brian Lara.  Sir Don Bradman, Graeme Smith and Michael Clarke have four double-hundreds to their name as captain.

CENTURIES GALORE FOR INDIA

Four Indian batsmen breached the three-figure mark in the Nagpur Test with Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Rohit Sharma all registering hundreds in the match.

This is only the third instance that India has had four centurions in an innings in their entire Test history. The previous two instances have come against South Africa in Kolkata (2010) and against Bangladesh in Mirpur (2007).

With Vijay, Pujara and Kohli’s ton, this is the fifth time that India’s top-order has three hundreds amongst themselves. It was the islanders who were at the receiving end the last time such a feat was achieved for India in 2009 at Kanpur.

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Bairstow episode, Moeen Ali fitness and Cook's form among England's Ashes problems

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England faded in the Brisbane heat.

After a 10-wicket hammering in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, England have it all to do in the inaugural day-nighter at the Adelaide Oval come Saturday.

Defeat at the Gabba has raised plenty of concerns, problems and debate in the England camp with off-the-field and on-the-field issues, injury and selection giving the Three Lions plenty of headaches.

Here, we look at five questions and wider problems facing Joe Root’s men.

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE BAIRSTOW?

News of Jonny Bairstow’s behaviour in a Perth bar, resulting in an alleged ‘headbutt’ on Australia opener Cameron Bancroft, has come at the worst time for England.

While it looks like the issue will be quickly be put to bed, with both the man in question and skipper Root saying the altercation was something of nothing, the ECB are still investigating the second late-night fracas in the space of a handful of weeks.

It of course follows Ben Stokes’ much-publicised arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in Bristol over the English summer, which we all know resulted in his unavailability from this tour.

While the Bairstow matter only came to light only when Australia were picked up on the Brisbane stump mic reminding him of his behaviour that evening, it wasn’t something England needed as they plunged towards a heavy defeat.

Steve Smith claimed that sledging the wicket-keeper batsman about that night helped lead to his second innings dismissal at the Gabba – and that is proof in the pudding – as if it was needed, that such instances are not easy to shake-off in the heat of Ashes battle.

An Australian tour is one which England players rightly enjoy but this could have been avoided and lessons should have been learned quickly following the Stokes saga.

Indeed, coach Trevor Bayliss described the actions of Bairstow as “dumb” and he’s right.

Moreover, former England captain Michael Atherton eloquently (and recently) penned a piece for The Times on how English cricketers should conduct themselves off the field – saying they should be: “Be smart, be sensible, be sociable”.

It’s a shame this message hasn’t gotten through.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 27: Jonny Bairstow of England talks to media during a press conference following play during day five of the First Test Match of the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 27, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Bairstow fronted up to the media about the incident.

CONCERN OVER MOEEN ALI’S CUT FINGER

England may play down Moeen Ali’s injury to his spinning finger but it is a big worry for the tourists heading into the second Test.

The 30-year-old suffered a nasty cut to the index finger of his right hand on day three and struggled to grip the seam of the Kookaburra ball, meaning he bowled only four overs in the second innings.

With just young Hampshire spinner Mason Crane as a reserve in the squad, England’s options are short on the spin front if Moeen isn’t fit for Adelaide.

Joe Root is a more than capable back-up to occupy an end but has got lots on his plate as it is.

England will be hopeful the spinner’s injury, that was thought initially to be just a blister, isn’t too bad.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 26: Moeen Ali of England looks dejected after being stumped by Tim Paine of Australia off the bowling of Nathan Lyon of Australia during day four of the First Test Match of the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 26, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Moeen Ali is a key player for England.

ANDERSON DIDN’T LOOK QUITE RIGHT

Again, Root allayed any lingering doubts over James Anderson’s fitness post-match but all wasn’t right with England’s highest Test wicket-taker.

The 35-year-old No.11 took a blow while batting and seemed to be hindered physically in his approach to the crease when running in, particularly in the second innings, when he bowled 11 wicketless overs to no effect.

He had a bit of his usual nip and zip about him in the first innings, claiming two wickets – but still drew criticism from who else but Kevin Pietersen, with the former batsman saying the Lancastrian didn’t perform whatsoever.

He has a point in the fact Anderson’s wickets Down Under have come at close to 40 in the past, and with many miles on the clock, it’s a tall order for him to lead with great potency.

England will be very concerned whether he can last the pace for the entire series.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 26: James Anderson of England and David Warner of Australia have words during day four of the First Test Match of the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 26, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Leader of the attack Anderson struggled at the Gabba.

ALASTAIR COOK’S FORM IS WORRYING

While it was unrealistic to expect England’s all-time top run-scorer to repeat his incredible 235* at Brisbane seven years ago, the opener looks out of nick this time around.

An out-of-form Cook and the manner of his dismissals, a top-edged hook off a short ball in the second innings being one of them, is of great concern. Nine runs in two innings say it all.

Failure to play the hostile short stuff well is a huge problem against Australia’s pace.

England have and still do rely too heavily on Cook – and when he doesn’t score – the team really feel the pinch.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 25: Alastair Cook of England looks dejected after being dismissed by Alastair Cook of England during day three of the First Test Match of the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 25, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Hooking and out: Cook.

SHOULD JAKE BALL BE DROPPED?

The bowler claimed one wicket in 26 overs across two innings and lacks the pace and variety to trouble the hosts’ top batsmen.

Ball has faced calls to be dropped across the board and there has been talk that England could select Crane for the day-nighter in south Australia, especially on a track that could offer a bit more for the spinners.

Without the pace of Stokes or indeed someone like Mark Wood, England’s options when it comes to fast bowling are pretty bare with just the inexperience of Tom Curran and Craig Overton sitting in reserve.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 25: Jake Ball of England shows his frustration during day three of the First Test Match of the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 25, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Ball didn’t offer much with ball and bat.

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Root plays down reports over alleged late-night altercation between Bairstow and Bancroft

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Root is backing his wicket-keeper batsman Bairstow.

Joe Root played down reports over an alleged late-night altercation between Jonny Bairstow and Australia opener Cameron Bancroft following England’s defeat in the first Test of the Ashes.

The skipper was at pains to remain upbeat despite the disappointing end to the series opener, praising his men for an “excellent” performance over the first three days of play.

Australia finished off the visitors within little more than an hour after play resumed at The Gabba in Brisbane on Monday morning, with David Warner (87no) hailing the beginning of a “great partnership” with Ashes newcomer Bancroft (82no).

However the debutante had already hit the headlines Down Under, where reports suggested he had been headbutted by England wicketkeeper Bairstow in Perth four weeks ago.

The incident is alleged to have occurred shortly after England arrived in Australia for the series, the squad already missing key player Ben Stokes due to events off-field.

Asked about how his men were dealing with distractions from incidents away from play, Root told Channel 9: “The story over Jonny – I think a mountain’s been made out of a molehill as far as that’s concerned, we’ve just got to move on and concentrate on our cricket as a squad.”

A controversial dismissal for Moeen Ali in the second innings heralded a collapse in England’s batting that saw them lose their last five wickets for 40, finishing on 195.

Keen to highlight England’s first innings haul of 302, Root said: “We’ve prepared very well in the warm-up games, played three days of excellent cricket and it’s about making sure it’s five days next week.”

Bairstow speaks to the media after day five.

The skipper said newcomers Mark Stoneman and James Vince had put in “excellent” batting displays, adding: “To come into an Ashes series first time round away from home and play like that was exceptional and showed great temperament, great skill and great character.

“I think that bodes really well for us moving into the series and we have got to harness that and move forward as a group and hopefully turn those starts into big hundreds.”

Meanwhile Root was confident Ali, who suffered a cut to his index finger, and James Anderson, who spent time off the field on day three, will be “fine” when the series resumes in Adelaide.

He said: “One thing that stands out about our team is we have great character, and over the last year or so we’ve come back from difficult situations, from tough days like today and bounced back straight away, and that’s the mentality we’re going to have to have next week. I’ve got every confidence we’ve got the ability to do so.”

Root’s opposite number Steve Smith admitted the first Test, in which the hosts lost the toss, had been tight at times.

Highlighting a slower wicket than anticipated, he said: “We had to work really hard there, I thought the bowlers did a terrific job to get them out for 300 in the first innings.”

And hinting at the planning and preparation behind the scenes in the Australia camp, he said the hosts have clear plans for taking on the visitors.

He said: “You’ve got some quality players in that line-up and I think we’ve made our intentions pretty clear what we are going to do to the bottom end of the order as well. Fortunately that worked for us in this game.”

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