Nair flattens England with maiden triple ton

Karun Nair's maiden triple hundred helped the Indians declare at 759/7 — their highest Test score — as England, at 12/0, trails by 270 ahead of the final day.

karun nair

Karun Nair raises his bat after tripling his maiden Test hundred.   -  AP

After four days of virtually uninterrupted run feast at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, the real contest seems to be between two sets of batsmen on either side. By the end of Day Four, India’s batsmen had outperformed their peers from England on a benign pitch, having taken their team to 759 for seven before declaration. It was India’s highest total ever scored, led by a triple-century from Karun Nair (303 not out), who became India’s second player, after Virender Sehwag, to reach that landmark when he cut Adil Rashid for four past point with about half-an-hour to go before stumps.

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England’s tired openers had to arrive to bat at this point, under the pressure created by a 282-run deficit. They erased 12 out of it, but more importantly survived the short period without losing any wicket.

Nair, in his debut series, utilised the opportunity to take control for most of the day, with local player Ravichandran Ashwin providing further cheer to Chennai’s crowd with a 67. In search of quick runs, Ravindra Jadeja scored 51 (off 55 balls) towards the end of the day. The pitch refused to offer any spice, casting doubts over the possibility of an Indian win on Day Five, despite the huge advantage.

Like K. L. Rahul before him, Nair played all kinds of shots, all around the wicket. In the final session, he even played an upper cut off Stuart Broad, who was operating with the third new ball, for a six. Nair started steadily alongside the overnight batsman Murali Vijay, and reached his century just after the first hour. Vijay played serenely before succumbing for 29 to what appeared to be an arm ball from left-arm spinner Liam Dawson.

The departure of a local lad made way for the arrival of another, who did not disappoint the fans. Ashwin got off the mark on the 15th ball he faced, but settled down into a rhythm after playing a delicate cut through third man for his first boundary. The run-rate of 2.66 in the morning improved after lunch when Nair and Ashwin opened up with fluent strokes against England’s hapless attack. Nair signalled the intent with a hard sweep for four off Moeen Ali early in the session, before Ashwin responded with a six to long-on off the same bowler. The surprising shot — given the quiet innings Ashwin had played so far — was a skip down the track for a hit over long-on, which took India past England’s total of 477.

Soon after, Nair produced an upper cut — his first of the day — for a boundary behind the wicket-keeper. The duo played elegant shots; Ashwin cut Moeen again sweetly, and Nair drove and then skipped down the track to convert the delivery into a full toss, all for boundaries. A drive to the sweeper cover for a single brought about Nair’s 150.

With spinners bowling in tandem, the batsmen decided to slow down and look out for singles and twos. But even in this period of consolidation, the batsmen punished the loose deliveries. When the balls were at an appropriate length, Nair swept confidently and played the cut.

By this time, England appeared helpless on the field. Opening batsman Keaton Jennings was given the ball to bowl his wicket-to-wicket, military medium deliveries. After reaching his half-century, Ashwin survived a scare when he had been struck on the pads by Jennings and was given out. His review was successful, however, as Hawk Eye showed the ball missing the leg stump.

Strokes continued to flow after tea, and some of them were extraordinary. Nair reached his double-century (off 306 balls) with an off-drive for four off Jennings, and soon after even played an overhead smash — like a tennis shot — to get another boundary. India crossed 600, and only Stuart Broad, with the new ball, provided some temporary relief when Ashwin slashed him straight to a diving Joe Root at gully.

Jadeja, who came in next, was enterprising enough to score at a strike-rate of 92.72 in his knock with only three boundaries hit — including a hooked six that brought India its 650. He departed, looking to slog a Dawson delivery to the cow corner, caught by Jake Ball.

England’s seamers tried to change the scenario with short balls, but the slow pitch and the batsmen’s expertise nullified their efforts. Broad, who had bowled a tight spell of 5-2-9-0 in the morning, looked as clueless as the rest of the attack. In all, 143 runs were scored after the fall of Ashwin at a run-rate of 7.15. Nair galloped towards his triple hundred; the third hundred of his innings was scored in only 75 balls.

Saying that India has the upper hand with its plundering on Day Four would be an understatement. India has effectively culled any semblance of England’s morale, despite a strong first-innings total by it. England’s tough Test tour will be over on Tuesday; it remains to be seen whether it ends with the team suffering another defeat.