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Friday, June 14, 2024

Dharamsala Test: Ashwin’s 36th fifer helps India decimate England to 4-1 series win

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Dharamsala: Ravichandran Ashwin’s 36th fifer in Tests helped India beat England by a mammoth victory margin of an innings and 64 runs in the fifth and final Test here on Saturday.

Ashwin became the only fourth bowler in history to claim five wickets in the 100th Test and leveled with Sri Lanka’s Muttaiah Muralitharan by ratcheting up a nine-wicket haul in the landmark Test.

Joe Root (84) was the only batsman who was the thorn in the flesh for India in the second innings, while others returned to the pavilion meekly, especially on the marching orders of Ashwin for the bulk of the time.

Tom Hartley tried his best to give cushion to Root but was sent back by a Jasprit Bumrah beauty to be trapped leg before the wicket. In the same over, the stand-in captain also similarly removed Mark Wood.

Shoaib Bashir stayed put to help Root accomplish a much-deserved century, but Ravindra Jadeja rattled his timbers. This left no choice for Root to put to sword Indian bowlers. In this endeavor, he perished at long-on, to give India a crushing victory.

After James Andeson etched his name in the history books by bagging his 700th Test wicket, India’s first innings hastened up. With this, it was up to the English top-order batsmen to sign off in style.

But the nugget of fire-in-the-belly stuff was missing from England’s stable, but Ashwin had plenty of this and ran through the top-order with his chicanery, forcing England batsmen to play with uncertainty.

Jonny Bairstow (39 off 31) was a ball with the bat, laundering some fun but Kuldeep Yadav slaughtered the merriment shortly after he was introduced by Bumrah.

When Stokes’ timbers were disturbed by Ashwin at the stroke of lunch, a narrative of misery writ all over England’s performance in the series.

If Ashwin sealed the match on Day 3, the victory conch was blown by Kuldeep on Day 1 with his sparkling 5/72 exploit.

While Stokes’ decision to bat first appeared to be the right decision on a deck favouring England as their batsmen played freely after spending some jittery moments at the crease.

But the Indian spinners, especially Kuldeep, loaded with a bagful of trickery in his armour, capitalised on the bit of a hold in the pitch post-lunch. Right through, the foxy wrist-spinner has been the nemesis for the visitors throughout the series.

Zak Crawley (79) showed the easeness with which to get the runs, but Kuldeep proved how good a bowler he is against the indecisive English batsmen in the first innings. The visitors lost six wickets in 37 balls on a good batting track, which was the relentless story in the series for media to grab.

Ashwin nailed the lower order to finish the first innings with a four-fer and continued to draw the same contours in the second innings, bowling at his best.

India’s batsmen latched on to the opportunity which the English batsmen missed. They gorged upon the surface by piling up runs.

Yashasvi Jaiswal sketched a fifty, going past 700 runs in the series, but could not persist in getting a big score as he did by smashing two double-hundreds in the series.

However, the momentum Jaiswal provided gave Rohit Sharma (103) and Shubman Gill (110) a solid platform to hammer their second centuries of the series. Their 171-run stand deflated English spirits as runs poured down rapidly with drops of consistent boundaries.

The duo tore apart the spinners, Tom Hartley and Shaoib Bashir, and Stokes’ uncanny field settings did not bore fruits for the tourists.

Rohit relished on wide and short stuff by spanking it to either side of the wicket, while Gill’s footwork against spin was a joy to picture.

England did enforce the marching orders to Rohit through Stokes’ magic ball, which was his first of the series, and then James Anderson removed Gill, but India refused to give in easily.

Debutant Devdutt Padikkal (65) and Satfaraz Khan (56) cracked the fifties by coming out to take on English bowlers, who aimed at running through India’s lower order with the ball reversing. Both were lucky too but put up a brave front through testing spells.

Even Kuldeep (30) was also involved in a 49-run stand with Bumrah (20) as they crushed England’s toothless bowling attack. Bashir (5-173) ended with a fifer and while he did bowl well in parts, the inexperience showed.

England’s moments to cherish were Anderson’s milestone and Stokes’ ripper to Rohit, but they would certainly like to forget their spineless bowling and indecisive batting performances throughout the series. On a sporting Dharamsala wicket, England’s calculation went awry and India prevailed after facing a crushing defeat in the first Test in Hyderabad.

Brief scores: England218 and 195 (Joe Root 84; Ashwin 5-77) lost to India 477 (Shubman Gill 110, Rohit Sharma 103, Devdutt Padikkal 65; Shoaib Bashir 5-173) by an innings and 64 runs

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