Washington Sundar ran out of partners and was stranded on 96 in the morning session. But by the end of the day, even he was all smiles along with his teammates as India won the series 3-1 with an innings win and set up a World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand at Lord’s in June.
Once Sundar and Rishabh Pant had bailed India out of trouble at the Narendra Modi Stadium on the second evening, it was only going to be a matter of whether the weekend crowd would celebrate India’s win on Saturday or Sunday. Thanks to yet another accurate spell by India’s spinners and a bizarre batting performance by England, India completed the formalities 42 minutes before the scheduled close of the third day’s play.
Sundar and Axar Patel’s 106-run partnership for the eighth wicket meant India stretched its lead to 160 before being bowled out for 365 just before lunch. R. Ashwin and Patel then got into the act to bundle England out for 135.
If England had to stretch the game into the fourth day, it required a solid start to its innings. With openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley surviving three overs before the break, Ashwin was introduced into the attack straightaway upon resumption, and he struck twice in his first over.
Ashwin first induced a nick off Crawley’s blade to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips, and off the next ball, Jonny Bairstow fell to the leg-side trap for his third duck in four innings. Patel then ran through the middle-order, with Ben Stokes erring into a sweep to leg gully.
While Patel’s arm-balls were unplayable, Ashwin bamboozled the hapless England batsmen with his artistry. Since Ishant Sharma did not take the field due to pain in his left ankle, the spin twins shared 47 of the 55 overs of the innings.
Barring Joe Root, who held the fort for more than an hour, only Dan Lawrence, batting at No. 7, showed some resistance. But with no support from the other end, Lawrence was the last man out, his heave against Ashwin resulting in the ball crashing into the stumps and another five-wicket haul for the Indian spin spearhead.
Earlier in the morning, Patel was involved in a flawless partnership with Sundar to bat England out of the game. While Patel rotated the strike, Sundar carried on after starting the day on 60.
When Sundar was four runs short of the three-figure mark, Axar was too late in turning back for a single that didn’t exist to be run out off the last ball of Root’s over. It took Ben Stokes just four deliveries to see the back of Ishant and Mohammed Siraj, leaving Sundar agonisingly short of a deserving hundred.