India wins the historic Ahmedabad Test in two days

Axar Patel, 6 for 38

By Kersi Meher-Homji

The Ahmedabad Test which India won last night reminded me of an old song which went “Whatever you can do, I can do it better, betterrr”.

It seemed that apart from India’s Rohit Sharma and England’s Zak Crawley, the batsmen seemed to hum, “However bad you can bat, I can do it worser, worsserrr!”

It was a day / night pink ball match. It was of historic importance as it was played on a new venue, the Narenra Modi Stadium, with a world record capacity of over 100,000 spectators. Also it was fast bowler Ishant Sharma’s 100th Test.

Yes, the pitch was made for spinners. But top class batsmen succumbing to spinners like England’s Jack Leach, an occasional bowler like Joe Root (who seldom bowls but still had Chandrasekhar-like figures of 5 wickets for 8 runs) and new comer Axar Patel who captured 11 for 70 in this Test. This made me think that the batsmen failed to use their feet to counteract the spin. Face it, apart from Ravi Ashwin, the spinners were not in the Warne, SP Gupte, Bedi, Prasanna, Chandra, Muralitharan class.

England had the benefit of winning the toss and batting first. Their opening batsman Crawley played a stroke-filled innings of 53 enriched with 10 elegant fours. But the rest refused to use their feet as England was bowled out for 112. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, playing only his second Test, had marvelous figures of 6 for 38 and Ashwin 3 for 26.

At stumps on day one, India was cruising at 3 for 99, only 13 runs behind. With Rohit in an aggressive mood, a lead of over 120 looked possible. Not so. After Rohit fell for 66 (with 11 fours) and skipper Virat Kohli for 27, the rest caved in. India lost seven wickets for a measly 46 runs to be all out for 145, a lead of only 33 runs. Not a commanding lead as expected.

The England spinners Leach (4 for 54) and part-time spinner skipper Root (5 for 8 in 6.2 overs) bowled accurately and effectively. Root’s 5 for 8 was the most economical 5 for figures by a spinner in Test history. Before this Test, Root had taken only 32 wickets in 101 Tests.

India opened with spinners to shoot England out for 81 (Axar 5 for 32, Ashwin 4 for 48) as fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah appeared redundant! Ashwin took his 400th wicket in this Test, his 77th, second fastest after Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan who had achieved this landmark in his 72nd Test.

Set only 49 runs to win, Rohit took control and hit a six to win the historic Test by 10 wickets for India to lead 2-1 in the series. He had followed his 66 in the first innings with an unbeaten 25 in the second in a match which had earlier lost 30 wickets for only 338 runs.

For his incredible spell of 11 for 70, Axar Patel was adjudged Man of the Match. Imagine a five day Test ending in less than two days!

“It was the shortest completed Test since 1935”, wrote Andrew Miller in ESPN Cricinfo.

I disagree with him. The Test between New Zealand and Australia at Wellington on 29 to 30 March 1946 was just as short. New Zealand was dismissed for 42 (debutant Ernie Toshack 4 for 12, Bill O’Reilly 5 for 14) and 54 (Toshack 2 for 6 in 10 overs, O’Reilly 3 for 19). Australia scored 199 and won by an innings and 103 runs.

And no one complained that the pitch was made for spinners!

India leads 2-1 in this topsy-turvy series with the final Test starting in Ahmedabad next Thursday on 4th March. 

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