When the second day of this Third Test began, a 10-wicket win for India seemed quite a likely margin of victory. It was expected, though, that we might have to wait a little longer for it.
A remarkable day in which 17 wickets fell, with India losing seven first innings wickets for 31 in the first session then England losing all 10 second innings wickets for 81 in the second session, saw the game accelerate to a conclusion at a startling pace.
It finished, with a Rohit Sharma six shortly after the sixth session began, as the shortest Test since World War Two. It is just the 22nd two-day match in Test cricket’s long history.
As the scoreline suggests, England were outplayed after enjoying the advantage of winning the toss. But this was not a pitch fit for Test cricket. Two batsmen reached 30 in four innings in the match. Joe Root, who came into this game with 32 Test wickets and an average of 47, took five wickets for eight runs in India’s first innings.
Less surprising, through all this, was that Axar Patel took match figures of 11 for 70, and Ravichandran Ashwin passed 400 Test scalps on his way to seven in the game. India’s third spinner, Washington Sundar, was only required with one English wicket remaining, but he duly took just four balls to take his first wicket.
The potency of Axar and Ashwin, the spiciness of the pitch, and England’s inability against the spinning ball – and particularly the one that goes straight on – provided a perfect storm that saw them follow up making 298 in two innings in the Second Test with a combined tally of 193 in the Third.
England’s desperation was evident in Jonny Bairstow’s frenetic two-ball duck, an innings that saw him saved by DRS slog-sweeping, then bowled trying to defend, and completed his second Test pair. It was evident in the wild slog-sweep that saw Dom Sibley caught behind. Every member of England’s top three recorded a duck in this match, and the five players who have filled those spots this winter have eight globes between them.
And their lack of understanding of the conditions and their opposition was evident in Ollie Pope being bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin playing down the wrong line for the second time in the match. England lost four wickets in each innings lbw, and five more bowled. They were not able to lay bat on India’s spinners.
Pope was one of three players to make it double figures, and Root and Ben Stokes’s counter-attacking 31 was the only partnership of note. Having been none for two after three balls, with the deficit still 33, scrambling to a target of 49 was perhaps about par. Even though it was their lowest total in India, to be bowled out for 81 on the second day was nowhere as heavy a failure as being bowled out for 112 on day one.
Even against a team bowled out for 36, it would have taken a real miracle for England to steal victory from there And by the time the 40 minute evening break, with India’s opening partnership already worth a formidable 11, it was clear that it was too late for one last twist. Shubman Gill swatted the first ball of the session for four, and India galloped to victory.
It was easier going for India now than it had been earlier in the day. They had eased into the lead just three down, before Jack Leach – who bowled well throughout – dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma, then Root picked up the lefties Rishabh Pant (wafting), Washington (bowled by a beauty), and Axar (drilling to cover) before he had even conceded a run.
The tail provided some vital resistance, with Ashwin hitting three boundaries, and Ishant Sharma the first six of his 100-Test career. With wickets falling to spin at an average under 10 throughout the game, every run helped.
With this victory, India kept alive their hopes of making the World Test Championship and, in doing so, ended England’s, in extraordinary fashion.