England slump to two-day Test defeat against India in Ahmedabad
England were on the wrong end of cricketing carnage in Ahmedabad as they succumbed to the embarrassment of a two-day defeat by India.
When Rohit Sharma clubbed the winning six to seal a 10-wicket home win under lights it ended a dizzying day of activity that added up to a hopelessly uneven contest between bat and pink ball but also a deserved victor.
Two-day finishes are rare for a reason – there have been only six others in the last 75 years – and it took a mixture of fine bowling, deeply flawed batting and a pitch unsuitable for long-form matches to add to that list.
To dismiss any of the three factors would be myopic and unhelpful, but while 17 wickets in the first two sessions made for high-octane entertainment it was a mostly unedifying spectacle.
England have been frustrated by the surfaces and some of the umpiring but could hardly complain about the result having lost all 20 wickets for 193 and lasted less than 80 overs across two innings.
After one session things had looked very different for the tourists, when a hot streak of seven for 31 saw them dismiss India for 145 – just 33 in front.
It had taken a staggering haul of five for eight from Joe Root’s part-time spin to create that unexpected note of optimism, but the same conditions which had turned Root’s occasional off-breaks into unplayable hand grenades soon left England batsmen on the canvass.
Axar Patel took five for 32 to finish with a match haul of 11, with Ravichandran Ashwin bagging four, including his magical 400th.
Left needing just 49 to take a 2-1 series lead, Rohit charged for the line and ended things with a booming six off Root, whose side cannot now qualify for the World Test Championship final.
India began the day on 99 for three in reply to their opponent’s 112, moving into the lead after 15 undramatic minutes at the start of the day. Things would never return to that kind of calmness, with Jack Leach setting in motion a staggering phase of trial by spin.
Any highlights package of dismissals would show an abundance of players on either side misreading, misjudging or simply missing deliveries that went straight on but that would unfairly discount the huge number either side that ragged sharply to sow the seeds of doubt.
Ajinkya Rahane was first to fall, pinned in front by Leach, before the left-armer had the overnight half-centurion Rohit lbw on the sweep for 66.
After an initial blast of James Anderson, Root bowed to the inevitable conclusion: that his side should have gone in with another specialist spinner and he would be needed to fill the gap.
It is hard to imagine the overlooked Dom Bess or the departed Moeen Ali could have done better than the skipper, though, as he snapped up three wickets without conceding a run.
His first ball was good enough to take care of the dangerous Rishabh Pant, tossed up into the left-hander’s rough and snaring the outside edge, and his next was one to treasure. Drifting in from round the wicket to Washington Sundar, he got some serious bite off the pitch, beat the bat and pinged the top of off.
Patel took a different route to the same destination, swinging heartily at his second ball from Root but picking out the man at short cover. Root won the race with Leach to complete a first career five-for, with Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah falling into his trap.
At the change over England must have felt a mixture of joy at their comeback and trepidation at what awaited them. The joy would soon be gone.
Patel was relentless as he picked vast holes in the visiting side, pounding away mercilessly and cashing in on a mass inability to distinguish between big turners and skiddy arm balls.
He started in stirring style by cleaning up the source of almost half of England’s first-innings runs – Zak Crawley – with the first ball of the innings.
Patel thought he had a hat-trick, dating back to his last ball on day one, when he won an lbw decision against the sweeping Jonny Bairstow but when that was overturned he simply bowled the Yorkshireman outright at his next attempt.
England were still in arrears when Dom Sibley followed but Root and Ben Stokes shared a precarious stand of 31 to ensure there would be some sort of chase.
The pair joined the long list of lbw victims, Ashwin getting Stokes (25) for the 11th time in Tests and Patel finally worming his way through Root’s defence.
Once Ollie Pope lost his off stump to Ashwin, the end was nigh and none of the last five got to double figures as the spinners ran riot.
Sharma and and Shubman Gill knocked off the slender target as Leach and Root tried in vain to create some drama, leaving three days to commiserate behind closed doors.
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