Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin acknowledges the fans as he celebrates with team-mates after completing his five-wicket haul during the fifth Test against England on Saturday.—Reuters
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin acknowledges the fans as he celebrates with team-mates after completing his five-wicket haul during the fifth Test against England on Saturday.—Reuters

DHARAMSALA: India maintained their aura of invincibility at home after completing a 4-1 series triumph against England on Saturday, and the ease of their final win may well subject the visitors’ much-hyped “Bazball” approach to fresh scrutiny.

Rohit Sharma and his men had clinched the series in the fourth Test in Ranchi but did not take their foot off the pedal in Dharamsala, where they routed England by an innings and 64 runs inside three days at the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium overlooked by snowcapped Himalayan mountains.

The win, which consolidates two-time finalists India’s position at the top of the World Test Championship standings, will have a special place in the memory of Ravichandran Ashwin.

The India off-spinner claimed five second-innings wickets to hasten England’s collapse in his 100th Test match.

England seamer James Anderson, meanwhile, became the first pace bowler to claim 700 Test wickets, partially lifting the gloom that had settled on England’s travelling “Barmy Army” fans.

This was India’s 17th consecutive Test series win at home, where they have not lost a series since Alastair Cook’s England bested them in 2012.

And they achieved it without batting stalwart Virat Kohli, who missed the series for personal reasons, and frontline seamer Mohammed Shami who was injured.

Batter K.L. Rahul missed the last four Tests with injury as well but India’s formidable bench strength meant their absence was not really felt.

Of the five Indian players who made their Test debut in the series, stumper Dhruv Jurel, seamer Akash Deep and batters Sarfaraz Khan and Devdutt Padikkal impressed immediately.

“I just always really believe that there’s an incredible amount of talent in India and a lot of young people, young players coming through,” India head coach Rahul Dravid said. “And it was a great opportunity for them to step up and show how good they are, and we saw that right throughout the series.”

Under Stokes and head coach Brendon “Baz” McCullum, England have espoused a flamboyant, even if risk-fraught, brand of cricket built around fearless batting.

The same approach that largely worked back home appeared somewhat one-dimensional and even reckless.

Opener Ben Duckett’s dismissal on Saturday illustrated the limitation of that approach.

Having conceded a first innings lead of 259, England were already far behind and would have benefited from cautious, safety-first batting to avoid an innings defeat.

Instead, whether due to a lack of trust in his own defence or an urge to impose himself early, Duckett charged forward against Ashwin only to miss the ball and lose his off-stump.

The opener was so far down the track he would have been stumped if he had not been bowled.

By contrast Joe Root, who struck 84 in England’s meagre second-innings 195, showed how touring batters can temper their aggression to master spin in India.

Stokes stood by his side’s overall approach, however, and was of the view that a good offence was the best defence against the wily home spinners.

“When India get on top, especially with the ball, they get a lot of men around the bat and with the quality of their (spin)’ve got to find ways of getting rid of those close fielders,” the all-rounder explained.

“You’ve just got to be positive enough to take that risk, accept that it may lead to your downfall. But when the intent is there and you have a clear reason as to why you are playing that shot, you can hold your hands up and accept it.”

Resuming on 473-8, India could add only four runs before losing their last two wickets when play restarted on day three.

Anderson got Kuldeep Yadav caught behind for 30 to become the third bowler to the 700 mark, after spinners Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka (800 wickets) and late Australian great Shane Warne (708).

The 41-year-old held the ball aloft to the crowd as teammates gathered around him and England fans stood to cheer.

It ended Yadav’s stubborn 49-run ninth-wicket overnight stand with Bumrah.

Spinner Shoaib Bashir soon wrapped up the innings in the fifth over of the day when he got Bumrah stumped for 20, completing the 20-year-old’s second five-wicket haul in his debut series.

India harnessed Ashwin with Bumrah for new ball duties and the off-spinner bowled Duckett in his first over.

Ashwin (5-77) struck again in his third over, dismissing Zak Crawley for a duck.

Ollie Pope made a breezy 19 before attempting a sweep against Ashwin, and Yashasvi Jaiswal took a running catch to dismiss the England vice-captain.

Jonny Bairstow smacked Ashwin for three sixes in an enthralling duel between two fierce competitors both playing their 100th Tests.

Yadav, replacing Ashwin in the attack, ended Bairstow’s entertaining knock of 39, trapping him lbw.

Ashwin returned to disturb Stokes’ stumps with the final delivery before the lunch break after which England’s defeat was only a matter of time.

Root waged a lone battle but did not get much support from the other end and was the last man out.



(1st Innings) 218 (Z. Crawley 79; K. Yadav 5-72, R. Ashwin 4-51)

INDIA (1st Innings, overnight 473-8):

Y. Jaiswal st Foakes b Bashir57

R. Sharma b Stokes103

S. Gill b Anderson110

D. Padikkal b Bashir65

S. Khan c Root b Bashir56

R. Jadeja lbw b Hartley15

D. Jurel c Duckett b Bashir15

R. Ashwin b Hartley0

K. Yadav c Foakes b Anderson30

J. Bumrah st Foakes b Bashir20

M. Siraj not out0

EXTRAS (LB-4, NB-2)6

TOTAL (all out, 124.1 overs)477

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-104 (Jaiswal), 2-275 (Rohit), 3-279 (Gill), 4-376 (Sarfaraz), 5-403 (Padikkal), 6-427 (Jurel), 7-427 (Jadeja), 8-428 (Ashwin), 9-477 (Yadav).

BOWLING: Anderson 16-2-60-2 (1nb), Wood 15-1-89-0, Hartley 39-3-126-2, Bashir 46.1-5-173-5, Stokes 5-1-17-1 (nb1), Root 3-0-8-0.

ENGLAND (2nd Innings):

Z. Crawley c Sarfaraz b Ashwin0

B. Duckett b Ashwin2

O. Pope c Jaiswal b Ashwin19

J. Root c Bumrah b Yadav84

J. Bairstow lbw b Yadav39

B. Stokes b Ashwin2

B. Foakes b Ashwin8

T. Hartley lbw b Bumrah20

M. Wood lbw b Bumrah0

S. Bashir b Jadeja13

J. Anderson not out0

EXTRAS (B-6, LB-1, NB-1)8

TOTAL (all out, 48.1 overs)195

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-2 (Duckett), 2-21 (Crawley), 3-36 (Pope), 4-92 (Bairstow), 5-103 (Stokes), 6-113 (Foakes), 7-141 (Hartley), 8-141 (Wood), 9-189 (Bashir).

BOWLING: Bumrah 10-2-38-2 (nb1), Ashwin 14-0-77-5, Jadeja 9-1-25-1, Yadav 14.1-0-40-2, Siraj 1-0-8-0.

RESULT: India won by an innings and 64 runs.

SERIES: India won five-match series 4-1.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2024



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