Axar and Ashwin rout England as India trounce tourists in series finale

By John Skilbeck 6 March 2021 3
Axar and Ashwin rout England as India trounce tourists in series finale

India showed England no mercy as they wrapped up an innings victory in the fourth Test and a 3-1 series triumph behind another mesmerising display from Axar Patel.

The relentless Indian spin cycle has left England a ragged shadow of the team that coasted to a 227-run win in the first Test, and it was fitting the series should end with Axar and Ravichandran Ashwin running amok, taking five wickets each.

The third Test was a two-day shock to the tourists' senses, while England headed into day three of this latest match in Ahmedabad knowing it would take something special to stave off one final heavy beating.

Test newcomer Axar and Ashwin have tortured the England batsmen in this series, and they were again the destroyers in a total of 135 all out, Axar with 5-48 and Ashwin taking 5-47 to nail down the win by an innings and 25 runs.

From 294-7 overnight in their first innings, leading by 89 runs, India scuppered English hopes of a quick burst through the tail as Washington Sundar and Axar led them to 365, at which point England finally took the three wickets they had been craving.

Axar made a useful 43 before he was run out, while Sundar was left frustratingly unbeaten on 96 as he ran out of partners, with the last three wickets going down in the space of five balls. Ben Stokes removed Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj to post figures of 4-89.

India looked to have effectively batted England out of the match by building their 160-run lead, given the brittle nature of the tourists' top order, and so it proved.

Those expecting an immediate England batting calamity were duly not disappointed, with Ashwin having Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow caught at first slip and leg slip respectively. That put England on 10-2, with Bairstow making his third duck in four innings in this series and a sixth in his last nine Test innings against India.

Dom Sibley was unlucky when a sweep shot off Axar struck short-leg fielder Shubman Gill on the knee, looping up for Rishabh Pant. Stokes was caught by captain Virat Kohli at leg slip, Axar again the bowler.

Captain Joe Root (30) and Ollie Pope (15) showed a touch more aptitude against the spinners, but Pope was stumped after coming forward to meet an Axar delivery that turned past the bat, and two balls later the skipper was pinned in front by Ashwin.

Dan Lawrence and Ben Foakes took England past the 100 mark before a sharp low catch at slip by Ajinkya Rahane saw Foakes perish for 13 to Axar, whose fifth wicket of the innings arrived when Dom Bess mistimed a heavy-duty sweep and edged behind to Pant.

In a lost cause, all that was left for England was for Lawrence to chase a second Test half-century, and a pair of lusty blows to the boundary off consecutive balls from Axar made his intentions clear. Lawrence got to 50 with a single, but his was the last wicket to fall, a resigned hoik at Ashwin resulting in the ball beating the bat and clattering middle and off stump, the cue for India to celebrate.

 

Axar makes startling Test impact

With 27 wickets in his first three Tests, Axar has made a breathtaking start at this level, with the left-arm spinner bamboozling England's batsmen time and again. Fellow Indian Narendra Hirwani holds the record for the most wickets in the first three outings of a Test career, having taken 31 in 1988, including 16 on his debut against West Indies. Unlike Hirwani, who was 19 years old when he broke into the team, Axar has been around the block several times in his career, playing 49 limited-overs games for India. Now the 27-year-old has a foothold in the Test team, watching his progress will be fascinating. The World Test Championship final now awaits India, with New Zealand to be their opponents.

Dismal trip for England batsmen

There are question marks over a number of players after this series. Sibley began with 87 but then had seven successive failures and averaged 16.75, while Pope, Crawley and Rory Burns all averaged less than 20. Bairstow's dismal effort with the bat meant he averaged just 7.00.

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John Skilbeck

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