Bumrah and Ashwin beat England’s bazballers as India draw level


India 396 (Jaiswal 209, Anderson 3-47, Ahmed 3-65) and 225 (Gill 104, Hartley 4-77) beat England 253 (Crawley 76, Bumrah 6-45, Kuldeep 3-71) and 292 (Crawley 73, Bumrah 3-46, Ashwin 3-72) by 106 runs

Jasprit Bumrah, the fast bowler of our times, completed the job that he had begun in England’s first innings as India weathered a predictably ferocious fourth-innings challenge from a team that never knows when it is beaten, to close out a 106-run victory in Visakhapatnam and square an enthralling series at 1-1 with three Tests to come.

Bumrah’s figures of 3 for 46 in 17.2 overs were less spectacular than his first-innings six-for, but the timing of his breakthroughs was everything on a fraught fourth day – in particular, his priceless extraction of Jonny Bairstow on the stroke of lunch, a dismissal that capped a five-wicket session for India and left England’s chase with too far to run, having bursted out of the blocks with now typical gusto.

For all of their endeavour, England will rue a handful of key moments that derailed their hopes – most particularly a lbw verdict against their most composed chaser, Zak Crawley, moments before the Bairstow extraction, and an atypically lax piece of running from the captain, Ben Stokes, that sawed off his ominously poised innings before it could cut loose. Joe Root, nursing a damaged finger, played a wild knock of 16 from 10 balls that begged several questions too, particularly given how composed England’s tail proved to be in adversity, most notably Tom Hartley, who was last man out for 36 from 47 balls.

The tone of England’s chase was established in the opening moments of the day. At one end, there was Crawley, all poise and calculation as he lined up India’s dangerman Bumrah and committed only to the balls that his 6’5″ frame could drive with impunity. At the other, there was Rehan Ahmed, a blur of ambitious strokeplay as he resolved to live dangerously and burgle his runs before India could get settled, as he did with a brace of boundaries in Axar Patel’s second over.

Rehan was there for a good time, not a long time, and Axar duly had the final word with a plumb lbw from round the wicket, but not before Rehan’s 23 from 31 balls had helped to add 45 runs in 11 overs for the second wicket. Out came Ollie Pope, the second-innings hero in Hyderabad, and as he too launched onto the offensive with a lasered drive for four first-ball, it was clear England weren’t about to go into their shells.

Crawley strode onto the front foot once more to dump Axar through long-off to reach a supremely measured 83-ball half-century, but while he sought to provide a very Bazball definition of an anchor, Pope was business personified in the course of a fleet-footed cameo. His faith in the sweep was a clear indication that the bounce had gone out of the surface, at least while Axar was in his sights, from whom he picked off all five of his boundaries in a 21-ball stay.

The wily Ashwin, however, was a different proposition. After missing out on a reverse-sweep that flicked his arm through to the keeper, Pope rocked back to cut another Ashwin delivery that kicked off the surface across his bows, and Rohit at slip grabbed a reflex chance with a flick of his left hand.

That was wicket No. 498 for Ashwin, and 499 wouldn’t be far behind. Whether Root’s damaged finger was a factor or not, England’s main man played a curiously frenetic knock, even by the standards being coaxed from the occasion. His first two scoring shots were reverse-sweeps for four – the latter ballooning off the glove over slip – before he laid into Axar with an inside-out drill for six over long-off, a shot that took him past 1000 Test runs in India.

But Axar hit back with an tight appeal for lbw that would have been upheld had the umpire’s finger gone up, and two balls later, Ashwin had his man via a skied slice to point, as he brought up his long-on and long-off fielders, and lured the big hit down the ground with one of those trademark hang-time offbreaks that never quite landed in Root’s arc as planned.

At 154 for 4 after 31 overs, the die was emphatically cast. As James Anderson had stated on the third evening, England’s aim was to win the match in “60 or 70 overs”, even if that meant a straight race between runs required and wickets remaining. And with lunch approaching, it was neck-and-neck in that regard, as Crawley and Bairstow built their way into a 40-run stand for the fifth wicket, seeing off Axar and Ashwin, whose attacking line across the right-handers was once again challenging both edges of the bat in that familiarly subtle style.

But it was a double-switch from Rohit that blew England’s prospects apart. First it was Kuldeep, skidding a top-spinner into Crawley’s pads from over the wicket, and earning three reds on DRS as India gambled on the review. Even with all three stumps visible, Rohit rightly reckoned that the ball had pitched on the line of leg stump, and India’s ecstasy as Crawley’s diligent 73 from 132 balls ended confirmed the extent to which he’d been carrying England’s fight.

And then, on the very stroke of lunch, the inevitable Bumrah holed England beneath the waterline. Bairstow had lined him up with sufficient confidence to punch a brace of boundaries through the off-side in his comeback over, but back came Bumrah with the nipbacker on a fuller length, and up went umpire Gaffaney’s finger as the ball was shown to be hitting the top of leg stump. Bairstow left the crease with a volley of invective as Ashwin celebrated loudly in his presence, but at 194 for 6, the tone of the session had been up-ended in the space of five balls.

Where there’s Ben Stokes, of course, no cause can ever be considered lost, and as he and Ben Foakes pieced together the innings with a rare display of caution after the break, England nudged past 200, the halfway mark of their chase. But for once, Stokes’ reticence would prove his team’s undoing, as he was slow to spot the danger as Ben Foakes called him through for a quick single to short midwicket, and Shreyas Iyer’s direct hit caught him three inches short.

That, as hindsight would emphatically prove, was that, but England’s unwavering belief would not allow India to celebrate until the final scalp had been claimed. Hartley’s poise with the bat has matched his impact with the ball in this series, and as he joined Foakes in a block-and-bash stand of 55 for the eighth wicket, the requirement continued to ebb away at pace.

Each man landed a six apiece as Ashwin and Kuldeep strayed into their arc, and though Hartley’s flirtation with the reverse-sweep nearly cost him, with Ashwin’s 500th wicket denied him on review, it required the return of India’s most lethal weapon to break this latest show of resistance. Bumrah needed six balls of his comeback over to induce a checked drive into his own midriff as Foakes departed for 36, before Mukesh Kumar – a distant second-best in India’s seam stakes – ended a tough Test on a personal high, by snicking off Shoaib Bashir for his first wicket of the match.

It was only fitting, however, that the true difference between the teams was the man to apply the coup de grace, as Hartley’s off stump took a walk like so many others before it. The series is alive and kicking, after a tussle to savour.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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