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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Two-Day International: England caught in spin web again as India win by 10 wickets

India defeat England by 10 wickets in day-night third Test in Ahmedabad to take unassailable 2-1 lead in four-match series.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Ahmedabad |
Updated: February 26, 2021 7:38:29 am
India beat England by 10 wickets in pink-ball Test (Source: BCCI)

In the end, the Indian camp was all smiles. The mood was a little downbeat in the afternoon following a batting meltdown in the first innings that put the hosts, seemingly, in a tight corner. But England’s batting imploded again and after they were all out for 81 in their second innings, India’s victory target was set at 49. Romping home was a formality and Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill took just 7.4 overs to secure a 10-wicket win and a 2-1 series lead. A draw in the final Test will be enough for India to qualify for the ICC World Test Championship final.

Spinners took 19 wickets for India in this game. After his six wickets in the first innings, Axar Patel bagged 5/32 in the second to run away with the Man of the Match award. Ravichandran Ashwin returned with a seven-wicket match haul on his way to 400 Test wickets. Washington Sundar, too, was given an over and he dismissed James Anderson with his fourth ball. A five-day game finishing inside two days wasn’t a good advertisement for Test cricket. The new Motera pitch, where the pink ball behaved inconsistently, will be put under the scanner. But Rohit Sharma showed the surface wasn’t unplayable.

“Need to have intent and look to score runs. You can’t keep blocking. The odd ball might turn or skid onto the stumps. It’s important to keep that intent and try and use your feet. Try and do as many things to throw the bowlers off. You need to stay ahead of the bowlers. Try and find ways to score runs. My intent wasn’t to survive; intent was to score while respecting the good balls. Pitch was an interesting one. You need to have a clear mindset,” Rohit said at the post-match press conference.

England’s batting lacked intent. Barring Ben Stokes’s cameo in the second innings and Joe Root’s defensive technique, their batsmen played for survival. India’s batting, too, didn’t cover itself with glory.

As their first innings folded for 145, Root’s figures read: 6.2-3-8-5. England’s only frontline spinner in this game, Jack Leach, bowled beautifully as well, but missed out on a five-for (4/54). But the visitors’ batting proved to be a let-down.

India came out on top despite their batting implosion, but the art of playing spin on pitches where the ball turns quickly seems to be all but lost.

Poor track

The pitch was not ideal for the game’s highest format. Some deliveries turned sharply, while a few skidded off the surface. The skidding had a lot more to do with the pink ball’s extra coat of lacquer. Some balls jumped off the surface, while a few rolled along it. Puffs of dust, especially from the batting and bowling creases, were very pronounced.

But the majority of dismissals could have been avoided. Like on Day 1, straighter deliveries did the trick on Thursday also. Of course, the inconsistent behaviour of the pitch created confusion among the batsmen. They were not sure which delivery would turn and which one would skid through. In absence of top-class technique against such a challenge, most of them resorted to playing inside the line. When the ball didn’t turn, they became sitting ducks.

Selection gaffe

Root and Co misread the wicket badly. On a pitch where 30 wickets fell in a little over four sessions with spinners accounting for 28 of them, England were guilty of not playing a second specialist tweaker.

When the spinners bowled, the Indian batsmen, save Rohit, looked confused. Ajinkya Rahane went back to a full ball from Leach and attempted a cut. The delivery zipped off the surface and trapped him leg-before. Rishabh Pant went forward to drive a tossed-up delivery from Root before judging the pace and turn off the pitch. He was out caught behind. Washington moved his backfoot towards leg-stump and as he went for a forward prod to a Root off-break, his off-stump was exposed. Axar charged down the pitch to a Root delivery and hit it straight to short cover.

After his match-winning century on a Chepauk turner in the second Test, Rohit oozed class and elegance during his 96-ball 66 at Motera before he attempted a sweep to a good-length ball from Leach. He missed it and was out LBW on umpire’s call.

Hardly a clue

Zak Crawley was dismissed off the very first ball of the second innings, playing down the wrong line to an Axar delivery that just came in with the angle. Jonny Bairstow bagged a pair, leaving a big gap between bat and pad. Axar’s delivery was more of an in-ducker bowled with a cross-seam.

Jofra Archer took a full delivery from Ashwin on the boot in front of the stumps.

From England’s perspective, only when Root and Stokes were trying to build a partnership did they look to be in the game. Collectively, their batting against spin was abject. India, too, lost seven wickets for 31 runs. “We need to take it in our stride and figure what we need to do when the ball isn’t spinning,” Rohit said.

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