@ Rakesh Agarwal
The Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium, Ahmedabad proved to be the graveyard for England cricket team once again. Fizzled out within two days in one of its worst ever defeat in the 3rd Test, it lost the last Test match in three days on 6 March 2021. India won the 4th Test by an innings and 25 runs and wrapped up the series 3-1 and earned a place to play in the final of World Test Championship against New Zealand to be played in June this year at Lord’s. The pitch conducive for batting was little grassier with some dry patches on the first day and remained so with routine and negligible wear and tear. England made two changes in its playing eleven bringing in right-arm batsman Dan Lawrence and right-arm off-break bowler Dom Bess in place of pacers Zofra Archer and Chris Broad. Mohd. Siraj replaced Jasprit Bumrah in Indian side. England winning the toss elected to bat first and were all out for 205 in 75.4 overs after tea on Day 1. It was their best score after massive 578 scored in the first innings of the first Test at Chennai. Axar Patel continued to be the nightmare for England and was pick of the Indian bowlers claiming 4 wickets for 68 runs. Ashwin introduced in the 20th over and little off-color grabbed 3 giving away 47 runs. There was a verbal altercation between Ben Stokes and Mohd. Siraj, when Stokes sledged the bowler after he was welcomed with a bouncer. Captain Virat Kohli and the field umpire had to chip in to handle the situation. “Usne mujhe gaali diya (he abused me)” Siraj told after the match. Stokes (55 runs) and Lawrence (46 runs) were the only two batsmen to resist the Indian spinners for some time. The Indian innings started after the tea-break and the opener Shubhman Gill was out lbw without scoring by a masterpiece in-swinger of Anderson. India score was 0 at this stage. At stumps India was 24/1 in 12 overs with Pujara and Rohit Sharma remaining not out. England started Day 2 with pace attack of Anderson and Stokes. Pujara (17) was first to go lbw before the first drink-break. Captain Kohli, surprised by a bouncer of Stokes was caught behind for a duck. He equaled the unwanted record with M S Dhoni for being out on a duck maximum times (8) as a captain. It was also the second time after 2014 against England that he got two ducks in the same series. Rahane (27) was out caught in the second slip by another out-swinger beauty of Anderson. Pant joined Rohit Sharma after the lunch and built a 41 runs partnership when Rohit (49) was adjudged lbw to Stokes. He completed fastest 1000 runs in ICC Test Championship and became the first Asian opener to achieve the feat in just 17 innings. Ashwin (13) was out early. Washington Sundar and Pant partnership went past England total in 78th over after Tea. Pant reverse-scooped Anderson bowling with the new ball to bring up the 100-runs partnership with Washington Sundar in the 83rd over. V V S Laxman called it the best shot of the year. Pant soared to his 100 with a massive six over mid-wicket. His third but maiden Test ton at home. The strike rate of Pant from 0 to 50 was 61 and an astonishingly 142 from 50 to 100. He is now placed after South African Collin Bland (1450) with 1358 runs in the list of most runs scored in the first 20 Tests batting at number 5 or below. Pant was out when he heaved a short ball of Stokes to Joe Root at short mid-wicket. A swashbuckling knock of 101 (118 balls) came to an end in 85th over putting up a valuable partnership of 113 runs (158 balls) with Washington Sundar. Washington Sundar (60*) and Axar Patel (11*) were at the crease at stumps with India total at 294/7 and a lead of 89 runs. Day 2 belonged to Rishabh Pant who was declared the ‘Man of the Match’. Anderson claimed 3 wickets while Stokes and Leach both claimed 2 scalps apiece.
Day 3 and began with BCCI honoring the legendary Little Master Sunil Gavaskar for completing 50 years of his debut in international cricket. It was on March 6, 1971 that he debuted in the 2nd Test against mighty West Indies at Port of Spain. He scored 774 runs in the 5-Tests match series, which is still a record for maximum runs scored on debut. Axar Patel was first to go run out after well-made 43 and 106 runs (173 balls) partnership Sundar. Ishant Sharma and Siraj were out at naught and India innings ended before lunch at 365 with a lead of 160 runs. Washington Sundar remained not out at 96 missing his maiden Test hundred in fourth outing after debut. England starting 2nd innings before lunch were 4 wickets down within one hour of play with 46 runs on the score board. It could not sustain the Indian spin bowling and were all out for 135 runs. The inclusion of Lawrence paid dividend for England who scored 50 runs in the second innings. The Indian spinner duo claimed 5-wickets each. Axar Patel total haul in the series was 27 while Ashwin grabbed 32 wickets and also the ‘Man of the Series’ award. Washington Sundar was adjudged the ‘Game changer of the Match’. The England captain J Root said after the match that the first positive of the series was the first Test but we could not match India in the rest. We will continue to learn from this experience. India managed to take the advantages at crucial times and the partnership between Sundar and Pant was magnificent. India outplayed us and I wish best of luck for the final of WTC. He also appreciated the stadium and acknowledged that they have been looked well throughout.