By Khurram Habib
Ahmedabad, Feb 25 (IANS) India, riding on spinners Axar Patel and R. Ashwin, took a 2-1 lead in the four-Test series to take a step closer to the World Test Championship (WTC) final after beating England by 10 wickets in the third session on the second day of the five-day third Test that saw 30 wickets fall in just under the first five sessions.
This is only the second time that a Test match in India has finished inside two days. The first one happened against Afghanistan in 2018, which was also the first-ever Test for the Afghans. In Test cricket history, this was only the 22nd Test that finished inside two days.
India now need to ensure that they don’t lose the fourth and final Test to guarantee a spot in the WTC, scheduled to be played at Lord’s, London, in June. New Zealand have already the final. Australia are also in the race with India to reach the final.
Spinners ruled the roost in the match as 29 of the 30 wickets that fell went to spinners. For India, left-arm spinner Patel and off-spinners Ashwin and Washington Sundar bagged 19 of the 20 England wickets on a pitch that started throwing up dust from the first session of the first day.
Local boy Patel took a match haul of 11 for 70 and was adjudged the Man of the Match. Ashwin, on the other hand, reached 400-wicket mark.
India had gone to stumps on the first day firmly in command at 99 for three after having bowled England out for 112 in the first innings of this pink day-night Test.
But the first session of the second day turned out to be a horrid period for the hosts as England skipper Joe Root, at best a part-time spinner, turned out to be the unlikely hero picking his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket. India crossed England’s first innings total without any damage but then the wickets began falling at frequent intervals.
India lost Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant within three runs — from 114/3 they became 117/6. They were soon reduced to 134/6 and folded up for 145, taking a slender first-innings lead of 33 runs.
Off-spinner Root took five for eight in 6.2 overs while left-arm spinner Jack Leach bagged four wickets for 54.
Only four India batsmen reached double figures with Rohit Sharma being the top scorer with 66 off 96 balls.
However, if India’s poor show gave England hope, they were in for some shock.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who picked a wicket off his first ball in the first innings, repeated the act in the second innings by removing first-innings half-centurion Zak Crawley, who missed the line of a skiddy delivery to be out bowled. Jonny Bairtsow got his second duck of this pink-ball Test. Sibley went soon after.
Patel took the first three wickets but England seemed to be getting back through Root and Ben Stokes. But then Ashwin, who began in a wayward manner, found his line to get rid of Stokes. Soon Root fell to Axar Patel. England’s innings lasted just 184 deliveries and 81 runs.
By the time they returned to have a bowl at India again while defending 48, their shoulders were already drooping and soon India coasted to victory, thanks to a quick fire 25 off 25 balls from Rohit Sharma.
England had won the first Test and India the second one. Both matches were played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
England: 112 all out in 48.4 overs (Zak Crawley 53, Joe Root 17; Axar Patel 6/38, R Ashwin 3/6) and 81 all out in 30.4 overs (Ben Stokes 25, Joe Root 19, Ollie Pope 12, Axar Patel 5/32, R. Ashwin 4/48, Washington Sundar 1/1) India: 145 all out in 53.2 (Rohit Sharma 66, Virat Kohli 27, R. Ashwin 17, Joe Root 5/8, Jack Leach 4/54) and 49 for no loss in 7.4 overs (Rohit Sharma 25 not out, Shubman Gill 15)
Result: India win by10 wickets
By Khurram Habib