Axar and Ashwin make it India’s day as England batting crumbles in Ahmedabad
Team India claimed the opening day honours in the Test match that was at the crux of deciding the course of the World Test Championship. While spin yet again proved to be England’s undoing unlike Chennai the pitch not taking away all the focus off the performance, the batsmen ensured Team India cut the first innings deficit to just 13 by the end of a historic day in the renovated, and now renamed Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Often, after a team loses the toss and is put in to field in the harsh, dry heat of Gujarat, a leather hunt is feared; but Ishant Sharma playing his 100th Test drew the first blood, the impressive Dom Sibley registering a duck. And then it was all the spinners’ show.
Axar Patel trapped Jonny Bairstow off his first ball of the game. Zak Crawley looked fluent for his half-century, and a partnership was beginning to brew with his skipper Joe Root. Ashwin, however, as he invariably does, put an end to the partnership with Joe Root being dismissed leg-before. That triggered a complete collapse for England who struggled to get a foothold against the Indian spinners.
Axar Patel, in only his second Test match, picked up another five-wicket haul. Ashwin’s guile was again on display, the set up for the wicket of Ollie Pope a testimony to his cricketing smarts. The only period of brief resistance came from the 10th wicket partnership between Stuart Broad and Foakes which might have been detrimental to England. While hardly scoring runs, they also ensured that India will have to bat lesser number of overs in the twilight zone. A score of 112 was all that England could muster on a track that had far less to offer than Chepauk.
A fluent half-century by Rohit Sharma and a partnership of 64 runs with Captain Virat Kohli ensured that Team India had moved within touching distance to wiping out England’s well below-par first innings score. While India would’ve ideally liked for the Sharma-Kohli duo to be heading out to bat on the afternoon of Day 2, a first-innings deficit of just 13 after having lost the toss would’ve been a scenario, if scripted, would’ve felt greedy.