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IND v ENG – Test 4, Day 3: Five each for R Ashwin, Axar Patel; India wrap up victory to make WTC final


MARCH 6, 2021

Brief Scorecard: India 365 (Pant 101, Sundar 96, Stokes 4-89) beat England 205 (Stokes 55, Patel 4-68) and 135 (Lawrence 50, Ashwin 5-47, Patel 5-48) by an innings and 25 runs

Washington Sundar left stranded on 96, before England spun out once again

India wrapped up a convincing innings victory to seal a 3-1 series result and a spot in the World Test Championship final, after England collapsed against spin for the final time on tour. Although Washington Sundar was left high and dry four runs short of a maiden Test hundred, Axar Patel hounded the visitors for his fourth five-for of an immensely impressive debut series to help confirm the inevitable midway through the evening session on day three.

If the morning had dawned amid debate over whether England could limit India’s lead and then set some sort of target in the fourth innings, events quickly spiralled out of their control. Sundar had batted impressively in the slipstream of Rishabh Pant on the second day to revive India from trouble at 146 for 6, and he seemed destined to become a Test centurion at the age of 21, only to run out of partners in anticlimactic fashion as the last three wickets fell for no runs in five balls.

He was applauded from the field by team-mates and fans nevertheless, and although England’s openers managed to survive a three-over spell before the lunch break, India soon took the game by the throat. Six wickets tumbled during an afternoon session in which England skittered and scraped to 65 for 6, and only a doughty fifty from Dan Lawrence prevented India from putting their feet up much earlier.

Having poked the bear by winning the first Test, England were on the end of a third successive mauling. Joe Root had suggested that swindling their way to 2-2 in Ahmedabad would represent an “phenomenal” result for his side, given India’s home record over the last decade is one of almost unbroken dominance, but England once again paid a heavy price for underperforming with the bat in conditions that were far less demanding than those encountered in the second and third Tests.

Sundar, batting at No. 8 in only his fourth Test, emphasised the gulf. There was barely a false shot as he went about compiling a four-hour innings that looked set to end with his bat raised to the cavernous Motera stands; even without the garland, his 96 was a higher score than any England batsman barring Root managed in the entire series.

His efforts extended India’s lead from 89 overnight to a daunting 160, and it soon became clear that England did not have the stomach for one last fight. R Ashwin scalped two wickets in his opening over and four of the top five were dismissed in single figures as panic set in once again. Lawrence provided a glimmer as England attempted to at least make India bat again, but he was last man out after notching a second Test fifty, as Ashwin completed a five-wicket haul of his own.

Overall, Ashwin and Patel claimed 59 wickets between them, at averages of 14.71 and 10.59 respectively, as English uncertainties on even vaguely spin-friendly surfaces were ruthlessly exploited.

The first 90 minutes of play had been conspicuously lacking in drama, as Sundar and Patel calmly extended their eighth-wicket stand to 106. Both made Test-best scores against a toiling England attack but, with Sundar’s milestone almost in touching distance, the innings suddenly imploded.

It took a run-out to break the partnership, as Patel impetuously left his crease for a non-existent single to mid-on. His dive was in vain, and both players averted their eyes – perhaps sensing what might be to come. Ben Stokes immediately dispatched Ishant Sharma lbw and then three balls later castled Mohammed Siraj, leaving Sundar waiting for his moment.

In a hole after winning the toss and cobbling together just 205, England swiftly returned to digging. Zak Crawley completed a difficult first tour of Asia by edging Ashwin to slip – the first time he had not been dismissed by left-arm spin across four Tests in Sri Lanka and India – and Jonny Bairstow then turned his first ball straight to leg slip for a third duck in four innings. Dom Sibley was a touch unfortunate to caught when his powerful sweep ricoheted off the pads of short leg, but Stokes fell tamely, paddling Patel to leg slip.

Ollie Pope led a skittish existence before being stumped – more fine glovework from Pant, as he clasped the ball by his chin – and Root was caught on the crease to give Ashwin a third. Lawrence and Ben Foakes resisted for a while, but when the latter poked at Patel with the stand having reached 44, it ensured England would go through seven successive innings since amassing 578 in Chennai without managing a fifty partnership.

The curtain fell soon after, Patel and Ashwin rounding up the tail to confirm India’s date at Lord’s (or wherever the WTC final ends up being played). Denying Australia a backdoor route to the decider would have to suffice as consolation for England.

Courtesy/Source: ESPNCricinfo