Ashwin, Axar sink England as India goes 2-1 up

India won by 10 wickets late on the second day of the third Test to take a 2-1 series lead and move a step closer to a berth in the World Test Championship final.

R. Ashwin took his 400th Test wicket against England.   -  BCCI

Thanks to Joe Root bowling possibly the spell of his life (5 for 8), England started the second afternoon with a spark. Even before the ring of fire at the Narendra Modi Stadium had come to life, the spark had been extinguished.

A combination of a difficult batting strip, accurate bowling by India’s spin twins and another ordinary performance by England batsmen meant the third Test ended with India registering a facile win to lead the series 2-1 heading into the last Test at the same venue.

Seventeen wickets fell for 176 runs on Thursday, resulting in India winning what turned out to be the shortest Test since World War-II. Starting the day at 99 for three after bundling England out for a paltry 112, Root’s off-spin and specialist left-arm spinner Jack Leach skittled India for 145.

IND vs ENG 3rd Test Day 2 Highlights: Ashwin, Axar star as India beats England by 10 wickets to take 2-1 lead

Axar Patel and R. Ashwin then took over, virtually bowling unchanged to wind up England’s second essay in a session for a meagre 81, not only its lowest but also its first two-digit total against India.

A target of 49 was far from challenging for the host side, with openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill completing the formalities in 46 balls. Rohit hoicked Root over cow corner for the winning shot 20 minutes after the dinner break.

On a day that saw spinners dominate right from the word go, thanks to a deceptive pitch, India taught yet another lesson to England that led to a spree of records. Besides England’s lowest, it was only the second instance of a Test match in India getting over in less than two days.

Moreover, when Ashwin trapped Jofra Archer in front of the wickets, he became the second-fastest bowler with 400 Test scalps. While Ashwin deservedly got a standing ovation from the crowd, it was his junior Axar who hogged the limelight for the second successive day.

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India had to strike early with a slender lead of 33 in the first innings. Axar ended England’s remote hopes of staging a comeback by castling Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow off the first three balls. While Crawley was bowled off a straight delivery, Bairstow saw one crashing into the stumps through his bat and pad.

England never seemed to recover as Ashwin and Axar bowled in good areas to let the pitch do its tricks. The ball of the day came when Ashwin sneaked through Ollie Pope’s defence for his 399th wicket.

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Earlier in the afternoon, Root, the offspinner, brought England back into the game. Once an industrious Leach had gotten rid of overnight batsmen Ajinkya Rahane (playing on the backfoot to be trapped in front) and Rohit (missed a sweep to be adjudged lbw) in the first half-hour, Root took over.

He saw the back of left-handed batting trio of Rishabh Pant (caught behind), Washington Sundar (bowled with a beauty that turned after pitching on the middle and hit the top of off-stump) and Axar Patel (caught at short covers) without even conceding a lead. The England captain then wound up the innings by snaring Ashwin (top-edged sweep to deep square-leg) and Jasprit Bumrah to complete his five-wicket haul.

However, yet another lacklustre display with the bat resulted in Root having not much reason to smile at the end of the day.

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