After a day in which wickets fell in a flurry, India emerged victorious to boost their chances of cementing a place in the ICC World Test Championship final, even as they eliminated England from the race.
Axar Patel claimed 11 wickets in the match and R Ashwin became only the fourth Indian to reach 400 Test wickets as India bundled England out for 81 in their second innings, giving themselves a target of 49. Rohit Sharma brought up the winning runs with a six as the hosts wrapped up victory within two days.
India now need to avoid defeat in the final Test at the same venue in Ahmedabad to ensure they progress to the WTC final. Australia, meanwhile, will hope England can still get something out of the series and win the final Test, which would result in a Trans-Tasman event in the inaugural WTC final.
The day began with India resuming their first innings on 99/3, trailing England by 13 runs. However, the scale of the task awaiting both teams on a turning track became evident when, within six overs of the morning, Ajinkya Rahane was trapped in front by Leach, attempting a cut but misjudging the degree of the turn.
The wicket opened the floodgates. Rohit Sharma, who had scored an authoritative 66 till that point, became Leach’s second wicket four overs later, attempting a sweep that didn’t account for the lack of turn. The dangerous Rishabh Pant, who could have taken the pitch out of the equation with his adventurous strokeplay, fell in the very next over, when England captain Joe Root brought himself on.
Root built on that wicket to return his best ever bowling figures. He ran through the tail, dismissing Washington Sundar (0), Axar Patel (0), Jasprit Bumrah (1) and eventually Ashwin (17) to claim a phenomenal 5/8. All the while, Ashwin and Ishant Sharma, who was unbeaten on 10*, had boosted India’s lead to 33.
England had fought their way back into contention in the match, but unfortunately, their batsmen couldn’t capitalise. India’s bowlers, primarily Axar and Ashwin, were superb with the ball, displaying immense control to run through the England line-up.
Axar opened the bowling, and had England reduced to 0/2 in an eventful first three balls. He cleaned up Zak Crawley with the first ball, and dished out the same treatment to Jonny Bairstow with his third ball, after the batsman overturned his lbw dismissal on the second ball.
Dom Sibley looked to grind his way through, but missed a sweep and was caught behind, his dismissal upheld despite a review. Root and Ben Stokes then briefly resisted India, putting on a 31-run stand for the fourth wicket, with Root having a dismissal overturned on review en route.
Their partnership helped England take the lead, but Ashwin came in to break the stand with the one that straightened and rammed into Stokes’ pads. The visitors lost six wickets for 31 runs, with Root’s dismissal by Axar in the next over being a blow they never recovered from. Ashwin proved too good for England’s lower order as he brought up his 400th Test wicket in just his 77th Test – he became the quickest bowler after Muttiah Muralitharan to reach the mark.
England’s collapse left India a target of 49. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, the India openers, knocked off 11 runs in what remained in the second session, and it didn’t take them long to finish things off in the final session, batting freely and assuredly.
The final Test will begin at the same venue on 4 March.