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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

India vs England, 5th Test Day 3: Hosts win by an innings and 64 runs, secure 4-1 series success

Ben Stokes throwing his head back in disgust after Ashwin broke through his defence — the captain playing for the turn which wasn’t there — was an apt portrayal of England’s plight on this tour, the final Test ending in an innings and 64-run loss

Indranil Majumdar Dharamshala Published 10.03.24, 08:58 AM
India's Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel, Yashasvi Jaiswal and other players pose with trophy after winning the fifth Test cricket match over England, in Dharamsala, Saturday, March 9, 2024. India win the five-match series 4-1.

India's Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel, Yashasvi Jaiswal and other players pose with trophy after winning the fifth Test cricket match over England, in Dharamsala, Saturday, March 9, 2024. India win the five-match series 4-1. PTI

Kuldeep Yadav let out a roar, pumped his fists and broke into frenzied celebrations. As Joe Root’s heave landed in the hands of the long-on fielder, the wrist spinner couldn’t hold back his emotions.

He had been excellent in this series, his release lethal with more bite and speed. Befittingly, he provided the final touch in the moment of glory.

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The celebrations though had started long before lunch. “If Bumrah doesn’t get you, Ashwin will; if Jadeja doesn’t get you, Kuldeep will.” The spectators in the grand stand of the main pavilion had been vociferously chanting the impromptu rhyme all morning, catching the ears of the Barmy Army stationed in the adjoining enclosure.

As India converted their 3-1 lead into 4-1 at the HPCA Stadium on Saturday, almost at the stroke of tea on Day III, the English trumpeter fell in line and started playing a Bollywood tune much to the delight of the gathering.

The victory in the first Test in Hyderabad seems like a distant memory now. The
visitors have been on a downslide since and haven’t been inspirational in the least. With the team playing insipid cricket, their huge band of travelling supporters found little motivation to keep their interest alive.

Ben Stokes throwing his head back in disgust after Ashwin broke through his defence — the captain playing for the turn which wasn’t there — was an apt portrayal of England’s plight on this tour, the final Test ending in an innings and 64-run loss.

Stokes finished with 199 runs in 10 innings, had seven scores under 15, averaged 7.6 in the second innings and was a sitting duck against the spinners, especially Ashwin, who has now dismissed him 13 times in his career.

Needing 259 to make India bat again, they had to show caution and discretion but played into the hands of the spinners. Bowling with the new ball, Ashwin made his 100th Test memorable with his 36th five-wicket haul, eclipsing Anil Kumble, and, along with player of the match Kuldeep (2/40), broke the backbone of their batting. The off-spinner finished with nine for 128 in the match.

Stokes tried to justify Ben Duckett’s charging down the wicket in the second over — “he tried to put pressure back on Ashwin”, or Ollie Pope, “trying to get the close-in fielders out” — but such indiscretion against crafty spinners has proved to be suicidal.

If Ashwin was sensational and began the slide with three wickets from his first eight overs, Kuldeep proved to be the perfect foil. England’s chances of pushing the game into the fourth day rested on Stokes and Root. But Ashwin produced the perfect ball to lure Stokes, who had been playing the spinners from within the crease, to lunge forward to a slider.

“It takes a special person to do what Ashwin has done, to play 100 Test matches,” head coach Rahul Dravid said. “Both Ashwin and Jad­eja are absolute legends of the game... 500 wickets in 100 Tests, (remember) sometimes he doesn’t get to play overseas. When we go abroad, we don’t get wickets that allow us to play more than one spinner.”

Rohit Sharma too was ecstatic. “All the bowlers responded. They wanted to make a difference with the ball in hand,” the captain said.

Dravid made special mention of Kuldeep. “It’s been tough on Kuldeep, to be honest. He’s bowling at a time when there are legends of the game who are playing as spinners,” Dravid said. “He hasn’t played a lot of red-ball cricket since making his debut here in 2017. For him to come into
this series and perform the way he has, it’s been absolutely superb. And Kuldeep has literally forced us (to play him) by the sheer quality of his bowling.”

Ashwin’s understanding of the game, his assessment of every batter and a detailed strategy before every series fetches him rewards. And he’s always looking to add new weapons to his trade, the hallmark of greatness.

No wonder he ended up being the highest wicket-taker with 26 scalps. Jasprit Bumrah, who led because of Rohit’s stiff back, was next best at 19. Kuldeep and Ravindra Jadeja too had 19 wickets but it was Ashwin who razed Bazball to the ground. The off-spinner walked off the field with the match ball in hand and pointed it in the direction of the Barmy Army knowing well that he had done the most damage to Bazball’s reputation.

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