England totter to reach 91 for 6 at tea, India on course for WTC final

Ahmedabad, Mar 6 (PTI) Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel once again did the star turn by reducing England to 91 for 6 at tea to keep India on course for a place in the World Test Championship final with a series win in sight on the third day of the fourth Test here. Ashwin (3/35) and Axar (3/28) shared the spoils during a session with England still needing 69 runs to avoid an embarrassing innings defeat that looks likely. India scored 365 in their first innings with a sizeable lead of 160 runs. Save skipper Joe Root (30), who offered brief resistance, none of the other visiting team batsmen showed any will to fight on a track that was offering turn but on the slower side. The likes of Dom Sibley (3), Zak Crawley (5), and Jonny Bairstow (0) never looked comfortable while Ben Stokes (2) failed to gauge the bounce going for a sweep shot that was not on. Earlier, Washington Sundar showed composure beyond his years but missed out on a maiden Test hundred by 4 runs in India’s commendable first innings score of 365. The 21-year-old left-hander’s 96 off 174 balls was as important as Rishabh Pant’s second day hundred but a sudden tail-end collapse saw him stranded at the non-striker’s end. India lost their last three wickets in a space of five balls with Ben Stokes (27.4-6-89-4) cleaning the tail without much fuss. Washington’s innings was in complete contrast to his former India U-19 teammate Rishabh Pant, who had blasted his way during the final 50 runs of his innings. Washington and Axar Patel (43 off 97 balls) added an invaluable 106 runs for the eighth wicket, which has probably thrown England out of the contest. The best part about the stand was they never looked like blasting the bowlers but got their runs at a fair clip adding 71 runs to the overnight score in 20.4 overs. Axar, for good measure, hit a straight six off Jack Leach (27-5-89-2), who clearly bowled to a negative field as there were way too many in the deep for any bowler’s comfort. It seemed that England were intent on saving the boundaries rather than the easy singles that both batsmen got in the process. They farmed the strike well enough during the course of their partnership. With the pitch slowing down considerably and moisture also gone, batting against James Anderson (25-14-44-3) was comparatively easy. Both batsmen, at times, were able to play their shots through the line and negotiate the spinners easily as the pace off the surface had declined. Washington also played a few pull shots as and when Stokes decided to use the short ball but the slowness enabled him to comfortably negotiate the bouncers. While Washington hit 10 fours and a six, Axar had five boundaries and a maximum in his kitty.


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