4th Test Report: Axar-Ashwin blow England away to lead India into WTC Final

Mayank Kumar

Mayank Kumar

Author| Mar 6, 12:05 PM

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

India scripted a fantastic come back in the series after being outplayed in the first Test of the series to achieve that all feared and expected before the series began in Chennai on February 05. 

India won the last game of the series by an innings and 25 runs to snatch the lead and the Anthony de Mello Trophy from England, and also booked a spot for themselves in the World Test Championship at Lord’s in June.

At the start of the third day, the writing was on the wall for the tourists and the unbeaten duo at the end of the third day’s play—Axar Patel and Washington Sundar made sure they did not get any opening to come back in the game. They extended the overnight lead of 89 runs to 160 runs as England dropped their shoulders way earlier than they themselves would’ve expected.

Washington Sundar missed out on a much-deserving hundred—his second in this series, as he was left stranded by the bowlers-batsmen around him, but he already did enough to put India in a position to allow them to boss the game.

England were under the pump and Kohli did not fail to read what other analysts could read from away from the ground and unleashed their tormentor-in-chief in the form of Axar Patel right from the second over, while Siraj was tasked to search some help off the surface as he did in the first innings.

After Siraj could not find anything from the surface or in the air, Kohli brought Ashwin from the other end, to unleash all of India’s might with the ball against England batsmen who were already back in the UK in their head.

Crawley was flummoxed by a delivery that turned viciously, and he committed the cardinal and perpetual sin all batsmen have been guilty of committing to a delivery that went straight on and India were up and running in the afternoon session.

The next man in Jonny Bairstow had looked improving in his game in the first innings, but his development was short-lived. Axar Patel has been all over him in the two games he played, but Ashwin was the man for India today and he played with his mind with an extra closing-in fielder at the leg slip position. Ashwin bowled his delivery perfectly to that well-laid plan and Bairstow—showing signs of a batsman already dismissed in his mind—guided that gently spinning ball into the hands of Rohit Sharma to walk away probably for the last time for England in Test matches for another duck.

When you are desperate for runs, and not finding it easy to take on the bowlers who have had an upper hand against you, luck too starts disowning you at the wrong times, and Sibley must have realised today that the whole universe has gone against him. He smashed a sweep shot directly into the thigh of Shubma Gill at short leg and Pant was eager for the rebound to send the English opener back to the pavilion with a helpless look on his face.

The senior pros in Joe Root and Ben Stokes have had to face many such phases in this series, and more than not in the last two Tests, they have failed to live up to the expectations and could not raise their game.

Maybe Stokes found that Axar will be unplayable for him, and hence he attempted to put some pressure back on the left-arm spinner. He attempted a scoop, more in hope than in his decisiveness to counter Axar’s threat, but could not time it well enough and Kohli was more than ecstatic to snaffle the catch to send another wave of panic into the England dressing room.

Root has been hailed as the best player of spin bowling among England batsmen and was looking good to establish himself once again. He was nimble-footed and was quick to adjust according to length, but twice in this game, he was guilty of playing from the backfoot to deliveries he should come forward to defend. Ashwin beat him in the air and he played for the trajectory, not for the length and gave himself out after missing the ball. It was a bizarre scene in the middle as Root considered himself as plumb, but Ashwin thought it could have spun past the leg stump, and the England skipper took a review in hope of surviving but left leaving his team in disarray along with a review.

What pundits from England have been seeking is an improvement from the younger players and the duo of Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence sent a good signal about their skillset and temperament. Pope was not getting stuck in the crease and instead was aggressive to punish the loose balls. For his bad luck though, Axar was too accurate, and he turned to be attempting one shot too many to give Rishabh Pant to weave his magic behind the stumps, after a magical innings with the bat on the second day.

Ben Foakes who has been one of the best England batsmen on spinning pitches in the last two games was not good enough to keep Axar defending and one delivery finally took the edge of his bat to reach Ajinkya Rahane at the first slip, although India’s vice-captain looked less assured of having caught that than Ben Stokes’ catch which he claimed.

England were doomed even before the start of the third day’s play after they let India off the hook and the partnership with Rishabh ant and Washington Sundar took away all their spirit and heart out of their game. If anything was left there to be feasted upon, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar took off from the same point Pant left had left the crease from, albeit with a very low intensity of onslaught.

England started off the series well and gave India a proper headache and what the head coach Ravi Shastri told in his interview with the host broadcaster a ‘kick in the backside’, but the prospect of an Indian comeback was never far away. It took a bad loss in the first Test to shake off the Indian team after the incredible heist in Australia, but the Indian team how they have been on their home soil in the last few years came roaring back in the series.

Rohit Sharma turned out to be the best batsman for the hosts in the series and shut down all the calls around his place in the team. Virat Kohli rated his 161 in the second Test very highly and credited him for setting the tone for an Indian comeback, followed by Ashwin and Axar’s heroics with the ball.

Axar Patel took 27 wickets in the last three Tests at a staggering average of 10.59 runs per wicket while Ashwin scalped 32 wickets at 14.71 runs per wicket. Ashwin was adjudged man of the series for his important contributions with the bat, along with dominating bowling performances and the off-spinner established his credentials as the biggest match-winner for India on home soil with his eights man of the series award.

England could not find a way to cope up with the challenges the Indian spinners and the pitches threw at them and ended the series in a familiar sight of letting go of the series after a dominating start.

  • Joe Root
  • Virat Kohli
  • Ravichandran Ashwin
  • Axar Patel
  • Rishabh Pant
  • Washington Sundar
  • Dominic Bess
  • Ben Stokes
  • Ollie Pope
  • Eng vs Ind
  • WTC

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