4th Test: Ashwin, Kuldeep and Jurel give India winning hand over England | Cricket - Hindustan Times

4th Test: Ashwin, Kuldeep and Jurel give India winning hand over England

By, Ranchi
Feb 27, 2024 06:34 AM IST

Wicketkeeper helps trim first-innings lead with 90 before Ashwin and Kuldeep share nine wickets.

“Full tha, seedha nikal gaya.” Rohit Sharma didn’t need any more convincing. If Ravichandran Ashwin says the ball straightened, it couldn’t have done anything else. Pitching full, on middle and leg, beating Joe Root’s inside edge to crash low into his pad — it looked very plumb to the naked eye. After UltraEdge confirmed there was no edge, all India needed were two dots. Pitching leg, hitting leg, India 1 Root 1.

Rohit Sharma's India are 152 runs away from capturing the series against England. (PTI)
Rohit Sharma's India are 152 runs away from capturing the series against England. (PTI)

A prevailing notion with this England side is that they always seem to find someone who can drag them out of a hole, transform a crisis into a match-winning situation, or just keep them in the game. Unsurprisingly, no one still does that better than Joe Root — and more hearteningly — his 1.0 version, as displayed in England’s first innings. So, when Root fell for 11, India knew they had a foot in the door.

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The game is still not over. With the odd ball keeping low, India will have to summon all their will and more to not let the conditions mess with their head.

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Till the ball gets older though, the onus is on the England spinners to bowl in the right areas. Trying to imitate India’s ploy of opening the bowling with two spinners, England too gave the new ball to Root and Tom Hartley, only for their inexperience to be exposed ruthlessly. Root bagged a maiden but was swept by Yashasvi Jaiswal behind square for four after that. Hartley tossed in two half volleys that were promptly creamed through midwicket by Sharma for boundaries. Two boundaries again off Hartley’s next over and India were averaging over seven runs per over.

When stumps were drawn, India were 40/0, needing 152 runs to win this Test and the series. Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav take half the credit for this upsurge, sharing nine wickets as England played futile cricket on a pitch that demanded application of the highest order. The other half goes to Dhruv Jurel, whose enterprising 90 was the biggest reason India could claw their way back from 177/7. Yadav played no small part here as well, scoring a gritty 28 facing 131 balls as the last three wickets added 130 runs. Akash Deep entertained with a massive six over midwicket but it was Jurel’s four sixes that propelled India’s innings from a point of no hope.

Shoaib Bashir bagged his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket before Hartley bowled Jurel but by then England’s lead had been trimmed to 46. Ashwin let in on what happened in the team huddle after that.

“Rohit said ‘both of you are starting. Who wants to start?' I put my hand up and said I will start from this side,” Ashwin told the broadcaster. “I have got some sort of an attachment with the new ball and I enjoyed bowling (with) a little bit more speed.” The difference between Ashwin with the old ball and Ashwin with the new ball was palpable. Imparting side spin at 90kph, he kept probing the stifling channel till Ben Duckett fell prey to an uncharacteristic defensive shot. Drifting in, the ball forced Duckett to play around the front pad but since it didn’t turn as expected, he ended up inside edging the ball to Sarfaraz Khan at short leg.

Ashwin springs back into action

Ashwin then made it two in two, removing Ollie Pope again with a ball that didn’t turn much; he of course couldn’t have known that.

It pitched, kept going straight, opened up Pope and rapped him plumb on the back pad. Pope went for a review but with ball tracking confirming umpire’s call on leg stump, he had to depart with a pair. Root is more than a survivor in these conditions, with an Alastair Cook sort of liking for subcontinent pitches. But Ashwin’s genius can be an overarching trump card.

It isn’t easy, revealed Ashwin, especially on pitches with invariably low bounce like in Ranchi or Kolkata. ‘When I come to the eastern part of the country, I find that there is not enough bite out of the surface. The bounce is literally around shin height if I can say that,” he said. But like always, Ashwin comes up with a solution. “I had to bowl a lot of side spin, had to hammer into the pitch for the first part of the spell and later from the other side I felt there was a little bit more purchase. I had to literally rewire and it's a mental switch I had to make.”

This is also that kind of a surface where a batter needs to read the bowler from the hand and not off the pitch, especially when that bowler is as skilled as Yadav. But Zak Crawley, eyeing the cover region kept deliberately unattended for him, tried to force Yadav and got comprehensively beaten by sharp turn. By now a Stokes dismissal is expected to be accompanied by surprise or a wry smile. This time he probably had a genuine reason, facing a grubber that beat his defensive push to hit him on his shin before bouncing back to disturb his stumps. Scarcely believable, it got better for India after tea. Jadeja tossed the ball outside off to entice Jonny Bairstow into a half-hearted push away from his body for an easy catch to Rajat Patidar at short cover. From there, it was only downhill for England.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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