IND vs ENG: Plan to bowl within the stumps worked well - Axar Patel

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel says India decided to bowl "wicket-to-wicket" as the ball wasn't turning on the Motera pitch.

Rich haul: Axar Patel celebrates after the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow. - BCCI

On a pitch where only an odd ball was turning on the first day, the key for India spinners was to bowl into the stumps. Axar Patel, the left-arm spinner who returned a six-wicket haul, admitted the ploy of bowling within wickets worked for him and R. Ashwin to perfection.

“Since the ball was skidding, you prefer bowling wicket-to-wicket because if the batsman tends to play on the backfoot, you have a good chance of getting an lbw or bowled. I was discussing the same with Ash that the ball wasn’t turning a lot so we planned to bowl wicket-to-wicket,” Axar said after the opening day’s play.

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Axar has been renowned for bamboozling batsmen with his arm-ball in domestic cricket. Over the last two weeks, he has repeated the streak, leaving England batsmen flummoxed. Crediting former India offspinner M. Venkataramana for honing his skills as a teenager at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, Axar said his pace bowling skills as a kid have been instumental in him mastering the arm-ball.

IND v ENG, 3rd TEST, DAY 1 - AS IT HAPPENED

“When I went to NCA early on, I learnt a lot from Venkat sir (M. Venkatramana). Since I used to bowl fast as a kid, I tend to bowl slightly quicker. I turned into a spin bowler once I had a bit of a knee problem. I think that’s what has helped me bowl arm balls better,” he said.

Home advantage?

Despite playing in front of his home crowd, with the stadium being reconstructed for the last six years, Axar had played only a solitary First-Class game at Motera coming into the match. The lanky bowler had no qualms in admitting he didn’t enjoy the home advantage on the pitch.

“There wasn’t really any home advantage in that respect because it’s a new stadium, new pitch and we were playing a match here after more than five years,” he said. “But the fact that the Gujarati crowd was cheering us in local language made me feel the home advantage. Otherwise it was equal for both teams.”