“The last thing you want is extra overs in your spleen.” Hendo.
There was plenty of opportunity for England fans to vent their collective spleen on what turned out to be the final day of the series.
The breathless Panting of day 2 had dealt England a potentially fatal blow in this game. Washington Sundar and Axar Patel were the not-out batsmen overnight for India, aiming to snuff out any lingering flame of hope the tourists might have had.
They were making a pretty good fist of it too. Resuming on 60, Sundar opened his account for the day with a smaximum, drilling Dom Bess straight and true back over his head. “In a way, he [Bess] won’t mind that,” said Nakul on commentary. I suspect he did mind.
England’s woes with the ball were manifold. Jimmy Anderson was bowling uncharacteristically short; Ben Stokes began with a curate’s egg of an over (and our débutant Forthy explained the origins of that saying); Dom Bess continued to struggle; Jack leaked runs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, it was a run-out that finally broke the partnership. Jonny Bairstow fielded a drive from Sundar at mid-on and whipped the ball in on the bounce to bowler Joe Root, the England skipper grazing the bails with ball in hand to leave Axar short of both his ground and a maiden Test 50.
Thereafter, the innings was over faster than a KP Red Bull single. First, Ishant Sharma was plumb lbw, then Mohammed Siraj was bowled backing away, Stokes with both wickets. Sundar was left marooned on 96 and India had posted 365.
Second dig, then, and with the pitch apparently as good for batting as at any time in the match, England’s batsmen had a shot at last-gasp glory. They went to lunch on 6-0, the tantalising aroma of possibility in their nostrils…
As it transpired, it was a fleeting scent. India quickly had England 10 for two, R Ashwin snagging Zak Crawley and Bairstow in consecutive deliveries. Please God let that be the end of Jonny B in Tests.
When Dom Sibley saw a solid sweep off Axar loop up off Shubman Gill’s knee and plop into Pant’s grateful gloves, that became 20 for three. Stokes’ brainless sweep into leg slip Virat Kohli’s hands made it 30 for four.
On commentary, Al Hotch put forward the idea that Siraj owed Sundar a drink for failing to see him through to his ton (and that to fulfil that obligation he’d have to drive Washington to a non-dry state for a glass or two of potcheen).
But it was the spinners who continued to torment England. Axar had a frazzled Pope stumped and Ashwin trapped Root in front, both wickets falling on 65. Foakes and sole-batting-bright-spot Dan Lawrence provided some resistance before England’s keeper was brilliantly caught low down at slip by Ajinkya Rahane off Axar. And Axar didn’t have to wait long for the fourth five-for in just his sixth innings as a Test bowler when Bess completed a miserable match by edging a wafty attempted sweep behind.
At 111 for eight, it was just a question of when. Once again, there was a mini-fightback, Lawrence this time aided by the dogged Leach. Cat Jones on commentary was amused by the Somerset twirler at the crease: “Look at him looking around at the fielders as if he’s actually going to hit it.” Eventually, he did hit it, only succeeding in providing another slip catch for the excellent Rahane. There was just time for Ashwin to secure his own five-for (the 30th of his Test career) by bowling Lawrence for a round 50.
In his legendary Smash Hits singles review one week in 1984, Morrissey* described Status Quo’s latest chart offering as “Unreviewable impertinence.” Which pretty much sums up my feelings about England’s parlous batting display. But that mustn’t detract one iota from India’s superb performance in this series. It should come as a surprise to no-one that their superiority in the spin bowling department was the crucial factor; 3-1 is a perfectly fair reflection.
So that’s it from Guerilla for this series. Catch you soon for limited overs and IPL fun.
*Yes, yes, I’m aware of his descent into cartoon racist – don’t write in.