Well push the day three pitch to day two and that’s what you got on offer, Chepauk’s surface was turning square, triangles and even trapezium. On the day, there was Pant with his maturity, Ashwin with his posterity and Ben Foakes, who had triumphed others with his intensity in comparison to others.
Carefree, reckless and irresponsible - three words that started to define Rishabh Pant during his early days in Indian cricket. But since he made his Test debut, those words have been history and he has written several new pages in that book. The way he has matured since then has turned all eyes of criticism into appreciation, with rumours of adjectives running out of dictionaries. When he walked in during the wee hours on the first day, he played percentage shots, only attacking the ones which came his way. And the others, he defended, something he hadn’t quite been able to adapt in the other formats.
Since his debut, Pant has an average of 45.92, just behind the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja. While the left-hander isn’t quite a century-scorer, his valuable contribution has quite made him the fan favourite, which was visible at the Chepauk. When he walked out to bat, he received the biggest applause and when he walked back, the magnitude of the applause became thunderous. What was more clever was his choice of shot, playing the percentage shots while still looking for doubles, to not leave his partner at the other end exposed. Even when wickets fell around him, he patted the backs of the bowlers, giving them a bit of confidence. Unfazed about the situation, Pant continued to explode and mature. Now, time for him to do the same with the gloves.
Chepauk crowd continues to marvel at Ravichandran Ashwin
Sometimes people wonder if they could get to witness wizardry in its pure form, searching all the places for attaining wisdom. While English fans found it via James Anderson and his blissful swing, South Africa attained that wisdom with Dale Steyn. Miles away from the two Western countries, there is India and the Chepauk which continues to marvel every time they look at Ravichandran Ashwin, at his pure best. His brain is well one of the best in the game, with his memory serving him right, including that time when he took a review, for a delivery that spun similar to the way he did in 2016/17, in Mohali where he accounted for Stokes.
Ashwin knows the ground, at the back of his hand, he knows every dust that would turn sharply, every dust that would bounce and the other that would keep low. When you have so much information well versed, you just have to go out and implement. That’s what Ashwin does every time he steps on to the ground, sticks by his basics and puts on his wizardry mask. His wand-like spells create chaos, even when you are batting with a monk at the crease. Even if you had ice-packs all over your body, you would feel the heat. That’s Ashwin, that’s Chepauk and that’s indeed the magical connection between the two. It isn’t just love at first sight, it is a marriage of the highest order - one bound by skills, memory and love. And it was only fitting that he walked away with the match-ball, picking up five wickets.
Ben Foakes brilliant, both behind the gloves and with the bat
When the English top-order struggled, the pressure was always going to be on the middle-order to resurrect the batting innings. However, the pitch wasn’t a tad bit English or hell, not even what it was in the first Test - it was turning all corners. When the ball turns haywire, shot selection becomes crucial. That’s when Ben Foakes was put under the pump, after having weathered all storms - of turn and bounce behind the stumps. And Foakes came in, he had to listen to all kinds of chirps, from Rishabh Pant to Virat Kohli, everyone was interested in his whereabouts. Not just that, they were even handing him warnings, dishing out flighted deliveries, asking him to go against his own patience levels.
None succeeded, the English keeper looked certain, far more than the others in the line-up, with his display against Indian spinners, who were at their peak. Ashwin was flighting and turning, the ball seemed to turn every corner and at the other, there was Axar Patel who was ripping it flat. But none dazed or troubled Foakes, who looked to get to the pitch marks and knock the delivery. His drive against Ashwin, which went straight, was arguably one of the best shots of the English innings. Not just comfortable, Foakes looked seasoned and with a tone of having played in these conditions, day in and day out.