AHMEDABAD: It was either the twilight playing tricks for close to 125 minutes when England batted in their second innings of the third Test against India on Thursday, or the ball appeared to have developed a mind of its own.
On a pitch that won’t be forgotten in a hurry and will certainly be up for debate if it needs to be rated poor, or points need to be docked, the pink ball did things that England would have never prepared themselves for.
If one can stretch imaginations a bit, it began to appear like every delivery, after pitching, would wait to see how the batsman was trying to read it before deciding to go the other way.
Nothing else can probably sum up the massacre that took place on the brown, dusty patch here, except that Axar Patel and R Ashwin bowled at the stumps for most of the 30 overs between them. Seven of the 10 dismissals were either bowled or leg-before. England used every single resource available to them. They sought the DRS, stared at the track in dismay, took deep breaths and perhaps even prayed. Clearly, nothing worked.
From Day One, the soil near the crease was always showing signs of disintegrating, thanks to the dryness and an uneven patch next to the bowler’s landing area. However, on Day Two, groundsmen had to twice walk out on the field to even out the patch as it became increasingly loose.
The stage was just about perfect for India to start with spinners from both ends.
A dart from Axar got to Zac Crawley’s stumps even before he could come in line of the ball. Bairstow looked for turn from a delivery travelling at 92 kmph, when there was none and got bowled. Root survived a clear leg-before but didn’t last long to a similar one a few deliveries later, giving Patel his 10th wicket.
3rd Test: Axar, Ashwin star as India beat England inside two days
Ashwin polished off Stokes, Pope and Archer as they froze at the awkward bounce and length. And it was Patel again who got Foakes leg-before, the latter hoping against hope that he had edged the ball.
England fell like ninepins for 81 and turned red even as the ball remained fresh pink. By the time India walked out to bat, with the target set at 49, the pitch – quite mysteriously – looked nothing like what it had appeared to be just an hour ago.
In Pics: Axar, Ashwin star as India beat England inside two days in pink-ball Test
<p>India’s Axar Patel claimed an 11-wicket match haul as they beat England by 10 wickets inside two days in the day-night third Test, dashing the tourists’ hopes of making the final of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) in June. (BCCI Photo)</p>
India won by 10 wickets and captain Virat Kohli said, after the game, it was a ‘good pitch’ but the batsmen from both teams weren’t up to it on both days.
This Test here at the newly refurbished stadium in Ahmedabad is now officially the shortest game since World War II. Wrapped up in just over five sessions and 140.2 overs, Thursday’s proceedings didn’t just see England suffer.
India, who started the day at 99-3, in their first innings, lost their next seven wickets for just 36 runs, and for the first time it appeared that the Test wouldn’t move into Day Three. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma were the only batsmen to get to double figures as the landmine that masqueraded as a pitch showed that it was impossible to play a proper innings on it.
Ishant Sharma, playing his 100th Test, did not get to bowl at all in the second innings, once again underlining it was all about turn, or even the lack of it, that would matter here. The final statement on the pitch was the fact that when England went out to field for the second time, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the two bowlers who have 600-plus and 500-plus Test wickets in their kitty respectively, did not open the bowling. Instead, it was Joe Root and Jack Leach.