India has wrapped up an extraordinary 10-wicket victory against England inside two days as both sides’ spinners caused mayhem on a treacherous wicket in the day-night third Test in Ahmedabad.
Seventeen wickets fell in Thursday’s first two sessions, with 30 falling in two days in what was the shortest completed Test match since 1935.
Momentum swung wildly as India, who moved 2-1 up in the four-Test series, suffered a first-innings collapse to open the door for an England fightback before the hosts, lead by Axar Patel’s 5-32, ripped through the tourists’ batting for a second time.
India eventually strolled to victory, securing the 49 runs they needed in their second innings without losing a wicket in 7.4 overs, as calm descended following the chaos of the first two sessions.
England had been on the back foot since being skittled out for 112 in their first innings at the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Yet Joe Root’s career best figures of 5-8 in 6.2 remarkable overs and Jack Leach’s 4-54 dragged the tourists back into the contest, bowling out India for 145.
England, however, suffered a second batting collapse and folded for 81 — their lowest ever total against India — in 30.4 overs to allow the hosts to reclaim control of the low-scoring contest.
Axar Patel finished with a match haul of 11-70 while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claimed 4-48 in the second innings as he passed 400 Test wickets. Washington Sundar took the last as all ten English second innings wickets fell to spin.
Left-arm spinner Patel was adjudged man-of-the-match in a contest in which seamers from both sides took a backseat as spinners wreaked havoc with the pink ball.
“You’re not going to get results in two days all the time. It’s just a bizarre game,” said Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who denied there was anything wrong with the pitch.
“I don’t think I have ever been a part of such a Test match where things have happened so quickly.
“The result went our way but the quality of batting wasn’t at all up to standard by both teams. There was a lack of application from both sides.
“It was a very good pitch to bat on, especially in the first innings.”
Not everyone agreed.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan blasted the surface, saying for day two of a Test match, it was too much of a lottery, while Mark Waugh agreed the pitch was “very questionable”.
Former Indian star Yuvraj Singh added to the debate, questioning whether the match finishing inside two days was a good look for Test cricket, and wondering how many wickets the spinners from his generation, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, would have taken.
However, Kevin Pietersen said the pitch “wasn’t horrendous”, laying most of the blame at the feet of the batsmen, saying the batting was “dreadful”.
England captain Root said the surface was “very challenging” but that his batsmen should have done better.
At 2-74, England looked on course for a decent first innings total before they collapsed against spin despite Zak Crawley’s stroke-filled 53.
“We just didn’t capitalise on it,” Root said after the defeat.
“When you get into that sort of position, you really want to make it count. Had we got 250 on that wicket, that could have been a really good score.”
England’s second successive defeat dashed their hopes of reaching the final of the inaugural World Test Championship on home soil later this year.
For India a draw in the final Test will be enough to secure their place in the final against New Zealand. If they lose the match, also in Ahmedabad from March 4, Australia will play New Zealand in the June 18-22 contest.