India secured their place in the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship after a resounding innings-and-25-run victory against England in Ahmedabad on Saturday, 6 March.
India posted a 160-run lead in their first innings, riding on Washington Sundar’s 96* on the third morning, and his 106-run stand with Axar Patel. It was a partnership that deflated England, the visitors crumbling for 135 in their second innings, with a half-century from Dan Lawrence their only innings of note.
India resumed the day on 294/7, their lead on 89, and England would have been hoping for quick wickets to finish off the innings before making up the deficit. However, frustratingly for the visitors, Sundar and Patel set the tone for the day, compiling a fluent partnership.
The two left-handers didn’t waste much time, playing their shots and pushing the field back early. They weren’t so much audacious, as Rishabh Pant was during his century on day two, but were extremely effective. Their association lasted most of the first session, but the end came swiftly, and disastrously.
When Sundar was on 96*, Axar was run out, setting for a quick single at the end of the over when there was no real run in it. He was sent back by Sundar, by which time the bails were clipped. The dismissal triggered a slide as Ishant Sharma was trapped in front by Stokes for a golden duck, and Mohammed Siraj lasted just three balls.
It meant Sundar was stranded on 96*, and the disappointment was evident as he walked off, even as acknowledged the crowd’s applause.
England survived the three overs remaining in the session, but it was after lunch that their hopes were snuffed out. Once again, their batsmen struggled against India’s expert spinners, with R Ashwin and Axar taking three wickets each in the second session to leave England tottering at 91/6 by tea.
Ashwin got things going, claiming the edge of Zak Crawley in just the fifth over of the innigns, and followed it up with the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow in the very next ball after the batsman pushed his very first delivery to leg-slip.
Five overs later, Dom Sibley was unfortunate to be dismissed off Axar, when his ferocious pull rebounded off the short-leg fielder, straight to Rishabh Pant. Joe Root and Ben Stokes attempted to revive the innings, but Stokes’ attempt at sweeping Axar only found Virat Kohli at leg-slip. England were four down for 30.
Ollie Pope and Root then put up something of a brief resistance, putting on 35 runs for the fifth wicket, but the stand was broken when Pope’s attempts to attack the spinners failed. He came down the track to Axar, but was flummoxed by one that zipped off the surface, leaving him stranded down the track as Pant clipped the bails with lightning hands.
When Ashwin then trapped Root in front with a straight one, England’s had little hope but to salvage pride. Lawrence made a brave attempt in the final session, impressively defying the spinners and bringing up his second Test half-century.
However, India wrapped things up halfway through the final session, with both Axar and Ashwin take five-wicket hauls. Lawrence’s was the last wicket to fall, cleaned up by Ashwin, and India will be on the plane to the ICC World Test Championship final.
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