Monday, March 1, 2021

Axar spins England out with pink ball at Narendra Modi Stadium

Indian spinners – we grew up seeing the famous quartet – Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivasan Venkatraghavan.  Of the left-arm spinners, I have seen – Bishan Bedi, Maninder Singh, Dilip Doshi were a class apart and that way it was surprising to see Sir Jadeja play as a frontline spinner, sometimes edging out Ravi Ashwin even.  Not sure whether Axar patel would have played, if Jadeja was available.  It was a surprise to see Washington Sundar in the X1, as I had expected Umesh Yadav back in the side or perhaps Hardik Pandya added

There were 1st day surprises at the new Narendra Modi Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad.  England won the toss and would like to forget that they did – play first in Test 2412  at stumps the score card reads : Stumps: India 99 for 3 (Rohit 57*, Rahane 1*) trail England 112 (Crawley 53, Patel 6-38) by 13 runs.  Yes 112 all out. That was not on cards when they were 74/2 at one stage.  Ashwin and more so, Axar Patel had different plans though.



Axar with his 6 for in his Second test was a revelation – his accuracy is too well known but he it was his straighter ones that were taking wickets as Englishmen failed to read him.   One statistics of Cric info read : 3 - Indian bowlers with five-wicket hauls in each of their first two Test matches. Axar Patel joined Mohammad Nissar and Narendra Hirwani after taking five-fors at Chepauk and Motera… .. my mind jumped to say, they have missed out Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, who was Gavaskar’s secret weapon downunder in 1985

The tall smiling   Axar Patel  was so hard to negotiate over his first three innings as a Test-match bowler: 2 for 40 and 5 for 60 in Chennai, and now, on day one of the third Test in Ahmedabad, 6 for 38. That's 13 wickets at an average of 10.61 and a strike rate of 28.9. Some of those 13 wickets have come off balls that have turned and jumped, but most have come via that most deadly weapon, the one that goes on straight.   Axar's straighter ball is delivered with pretty much the same grip and release as most other balls he bowls.  Jack Leach is a different kind of bowler and so is Kuldeep Yadav – and on conditions that suited him, Axar was nearly unplayable.

When India batted, the openers sort of scratched around.  Shubman Gill was not in his elements, Cheteswar had a duck and Kohli dragged a ball on to his stumps. But .. .. there was Rohit Sharma, bringing up his 50 in style off mere 63 balls.    England are still grumbling about the footmarks - they are forming deep craters in the landing zone now - but they could and should still have been India's problem had their batting endured for longer than 50 overs.  Another bigger innings from Rohit with expected cameo from Pant, stronger later middle order in form of Washington Sundar, centurion Ashwin – should place India in a commanding position with a good lead, making that there would no need for a 4th innings ! Ashwin getting closer to his 400th rocked with straighter ones, carom balls and spinnings deliveries that bamboozled English batsmen.  More worse would be in store for English batsmen in the 2nd essay.  The delivery that floated beating  Ollie Pope's outside edge to get him bowled was a beaty. 

Long ago, in 1984 Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was a sensation.  After his grand debut in Ranji against Delhi, he secured a place in National team and against the touring England team in Nov 1984, took 6/64 & 6/117 at Mumbai playing lead role in India’s win by eight wickets.   In the next test at Delhi, he was to take another 6 – for 99 this time but India lost.  Kapil Dev the greatest icon all-rounder was dropped as a disciplinary measure for a single shot in the 2nd innings of that test would remain a blot in Indian history.  For all that talent Siva played only 9 tests taking 26 wickets in all .. ..

At leisure, I searched to find that he had made his debut much earlier at St Johns in Apr 1983 (prior to WC 1983) – on a pitch where centuries galored, the match was drawn – WI made 550 with centuries from Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Jeff Dujon  and Clive Lloyd.  For India, Ravi Shastri and Mohinder Amarnath made centuries – Vengsarkar made 94 while Kapil Dev got out at 98.  Gordon Greenidge batted on and on and left having hit a 6 and 14 4s, as he flew to his native Barbados to be with his ailing 2 year old daughter, who sadly passed away.   

One extra piece of information  Kapil Dev could not bowl due to a stiff-neck and the affable Yashpal Sharma bowled a solitary over and took his only wicket in Test Cricket that of centurion Desmond Haynes.  Yashpal who played 37 tests and 42 ODIs also has claimed  the wicket of David Gower in an ODI at London in 1982. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
25.2.2021. 

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