The pitch produced turn, but it was certainly not unplayable, definitely not to the extent the scoreboard reflects.
India advanced another step in their quest towards the final of this year’s ICC World Test Championship (WTC). Virat Kohli’s men steamrolled a clueless England by 10 wickets on a dry turner in Ahmedabad’s inaugural Day-Night Test match to take a 2-1 lead in the series. The match got over within two days. In a history spanning 144 years, this was only the 22nd time that a Test match got over inside two days. The entire match lasted only 842 balls (140.2 overs), which makes it the shortest for a completed post-War Test match and shortest in overall in India.
Day 2 witnessed 17 wickets falling in the first two sessions. India needed a mere 49, and it took Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill just 7.4 overs to knock off the runs. The match got over inside half an hour after dinner. England are now of the race for the WTC Final.
In many ways, this was a bizarre Test match. Batsmen from both teams failed to adjust to the dusty Motera pitch. The pitch produced turn, but it was certainly not unplayable, definitely not to the extent the scoreboard reflects. As many as 28 of the 30 wickets that fell in the match went to the spinners, and 21 of these fell to straight deliveries. The illusion of spin made one batsman after another repeat the mistake of playing down the wrong line to straight balls.
Jack Leach and England captain Joe Root’s off-spin stunned the Indian batting line-up in the first session. From 99/3, the hosts collapsed to 145, getting a lead of just 33 runs. Rohit Sharma top-scored for the Indians with a 96-ball 66, demonstrating how to bat on such a testing surface. For England, Root registered his maiden five-for and became the first England captain after Bob Willis to do so on Indian soil.
However, when England came to bat for the second time, Axar Patel and R Ashwin made their presence felt right from ball one. They shared all 10 wickets in less than a session for a mere 81 runs, leaving India to chase 49. Only three England batsmen entered double-digit scores, with Ben Stokes being the top scorer with 25.
After his 6-38 in the first innings, local boy Axar yet again troubled the English with his accuracy and consistency and registered his maiden 10-for in a Test match. In fact, the lack of variation in his left-arm spin went in his favour as he made the batsmen play more often than anyone else.
His senior partner, Ashwin, meanwhile touched the milestone of 400 Test wickets by trapping Jofra Archer in front. He became the second fastest after the Sri Lankan spin-maestro Muttiah Muralitharan to get there.
After the Test match, Virat Kohli brushed aside the criticism surrounding the Motera pitch and blamed the temperament of batters of both teams for this poor show: “To be honest, I don’t think the quality of batting was up to standards. We were 100 for 3 and then got bowled out for less than 150. It was just the odd ball turning and it was a good wicket to bat in the first innings. It was bizarre that 21 of the 30 wickets fell to straight balls, Test cricket is about trusting your defence. Lack of application ensured it was a quick finish,”Kohli said in the post-match presentation.
However, Root echoed a different sentiment when he was asked about the surface: “I think it sums up the wicket if I am getting a fifer. The plastic coating on the ball gathered pace off the wicket. It was high-quality bowling as well. Both sides struggled on that wicket. We don’t define ourselves on a performance like this.”
The final Test of this four-match series starts from March 4 at the same venue.
England 112 (Zak Crawley 53; Axar Patel 6-38) and 81 (Ben Stokes 25; Axar Patel 5-32) lost to India 145 (Rohit Sharma 66; Joe Root 5-8, Jack Leach 4-54) and 49/0 (Rohit Sharma 25*) by 10 wickets.
Player of the match: Axar Patel.
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