Axar Patel claimed six wickets as India gained the upper hand in their crucial day-night third Test against England yesterday, bowling out their rivals for 112 and then getting within 13 runs of taking the lead. Only the loss of captain Virat Kohli in the final over spoiled the opening day for India as they moved to 99 for three at the world’s biggest cricket stadium with Rohit Sharma on 57 and Ajinkya Rahane on one.
Spin bowlers again dominated with Patel taking the starring role while England’s Jack Leach claimed two wickets, including Kohli for 27. The Indian captain saw one tough chance dropped by Ollie Pope on 24 but soon after played Leach’s left-arm spin onto his stumps and walked off visibly furious with himself.
Patel said the pink ball “skids” more off the pitch giving him more opportunity to get more lbw decisions. Three England victims went leg before. After taking five wickets on his debut in India’s crushing win in the second of the four Tests, Patel said he had carried his “confidence” into the pink-ball game.
With the series poised at 1-1 England won the toss and chose to bat but survived only 48.4 overs. Patel linked up with Ravichandran Ashwin, who took three wickets, while fast bowler Ishant Sharma, playing his 100th Test, claimed one. Amid a general collapse, Zak Crawley, returning after missing two tests through injury, top-scored with 53.
Captain Joe Root (17) Ben Foakes (12) and Jofra Archer (11) were the only others to get into double figures. Crawley put up some resistance with his fourth Test fifty and a 47-run third-wicket stand with Root. Ashwin claimed the England captain with another lbw. Root reviewed the call but replays showed the ball would have hit the top of leg stump and he left the field to loud cheers from the home crowd. Crawley said England’s batting specialists had let down their bowlers.
“I don’t think it will require a miracle actually,” he added, however, on the prospects of an England fightback. “Things will have to go our way, we are going to have to play extremely well but we are very capable.”
Crawley predicted that the pitch will continue to break up which could help England’s bowlers. “If we bat well in the third innings and put a bit of pressure on them we can defend anything if the pitch continues to get worse.”
England hit back with two wickets after Jofra Archer sent back Shubman Gill for 11 and Cheteshwar Pujara fell for a duck off Leach. But Sharma stood firm for his 12th Test fifty and put on 64 runs with Kohli, delighting the crowd at India’s revamped venue with a capacity of 110,000 fans.
Only half the tickets have been put on sale due to the coronavirus pandemic and a turnout of over 30,000 was reported on the opening day. India’s innings witnessed drama after the new LED lights went off for two minutes in the second over and then for 30 seconds in the 12th.
A young pitch invader also made his way onto the field in the final session and attempted to get close to Kohli before being escorted away by security guards. England were frustrated by two TV umpire calls, including a stumping chance of Sharma, on 53, and a Ben Stokes catch that was turned down early in the innings. Root had a long conversation with the on-field umpire on both occasions. He was heard calling for “consistency”.
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